The content-independence of political obligation: What it is and how to test it

Legal Theory 24 (2):135-157 (2018)
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One of the distinctive features of the obligation to obey the law is its content-independence. We ought to do what the law commands because the law commands it, and not because of the law's content—i.e., the independent merits of the actions it prescribes. Despite its popularity, the notion of content-independence is marked by ambiguity. In this paper, I first clarify what content-independence is. I then develop a simple test—the “content-independence test”—which allows us to establish whether any candidate justification of the obligation to obey the law delivers genuine content-independence. I apply this test to prominent such justifications and conclude that several of them, surprisingly, fail it.

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Laura Valentini
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München


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