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Unformatted text preview: principle of fairness is enough to bind those who take advantage of it, given the appropriate conditions already described. Thus what corre- sponds to the something, which to Prichard looked like a prior agreement but is not, is the just practice of giving one’s word in conjunction with the hypothetical agreement on the principle of fairness. Of course, another ethical theory might derive this principle without using the conception of the original position. For the moment I need not maintain that fiduciary ties cannot be explained in some other way. Rather, what I am concerned to show is that even though justice as fairness uses the notion of an origi- nal agreement, it is still able to give a satisfactory answer to Prichard’s question. 53. THE DUTY TO COMPLY WITH AN UNJUST LAW 53. The Duty to Comply There is quite clearly no difficulty in explaining why we are to comply with just laws enacted under a just constitution. In this case the principles of natural duty and the principle of fairness establish the requisite duties and obligations. Citizens generally are bound by the duty of justice, and those who have assumed favored offices and positions, or who have taken advantage of certain opportunities to further their interests, are in addition obligated to do their part by the principle of fairness. The real question is under which circumstances and to what extent we are bound to comply with unjust arrangements. Now it is sometimes said that we are never required to comply in these cases. But this is a mistake. The injustice of a law is not, in general, a sufficient reason for not adhering to it any more than the legal validity of legislation (as defined by the existing constitu- tion) is a sufficient reason for going along with it. When the basic struc- ture of society is reasonably just, as estimated by what the current state of things allows, we are to recognize unjust laws as binding provided that they do not exceed certain limits of injustice. In trying to discern these limits we approach the deeper problem of political duty and obligation. The difficulty here lies in part in the fact that there is a conﬂict of principles in these cases. Some principles counsel compliance while oth- ers direct us the other way. Thus the claims of political duty and obliga- tion must be balanced by a conception of the appropriate priorities. There is, however, a further problem. As we have seen, the principles of justice (in lexical order) belong to ideal theory (§39). The persons in the original position assume that the principles they acknowledge, what- 308 Duty and Obligation ever they are, will be strictly complied with and followed by everyone. Thus the principles of justice that result are those defining a perfectly just society, given favorable conditions. With the presumption of strict com- pliance, we arrive at a certain ideal conception. When we ask whether and under what circumstances unjust arrangements are to be tolerated, we are faced with a different sort of question. We must ascertain how the idealfaced with a different sort of question....
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This note was uploaded on 02/28/2011 for the course PHIL 205 taught by Professor Carter during the Spring '09 term at BYU.
- Spring '09