The Intransparency of Political Legitimacy

Philosophers' Imprint 23 (2023)
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Some moral value is transparent just in case an agent with average mental capacities can feasibly come to know whether some entity does, or does not, possess that value. In this paper, I consider whether legitimacy—that is, the property of exercises of political power to be permissible—is transparent. Implicit in much theorising about legitimacy is the idea that it is. I will offer two counter-arguments. First, injustice can defeat legitimacy, and injustice can be intransparent. Second, legitimacy can play a critical function in our practical thought, which sometimes requires intransparency.

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Matthias Brinkmann
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München


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