Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 4-27-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Christopher Heath Wellman


Under what conditions can a government justifiably punish citizens for disobeying its laws? Most philosophers today think that the government can morally obligate citizens to obey the laws only if the citizens actually consent to them. This amounts to philosophical anarchism, because no extant government meets this condition. But we can provide conditions for justifiable punishment without appealing to obligation. I focus on what people may be blamed for doing, and I argue that when the government has trustworthy expertise, it can issue laws that citizens may be justifiably punished for disobeying. This condition, unlike actual consent, can be met.


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