Boston University School of Law

JD725 Political Responsibility: A Duty to Obey and a Duty to Disobey (S)


It is widely believed that members of a given society are morally obligated to comply with its laws, even those that are morally indefensible. Theorists since Plato have recognized the need to defend such a proposition and have offered supporting arguments. Nevertheless, many -- perhaps all -- theorists agree that civil disobedience is sometimes morally justifiable. Prominent dissidents such as Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., go further and endorse a duty to disobey unjust law. This seminar will critically examine arguments for and against each of those moral claims. Seminar members will take turns initiating seminar discussion of the readings. A 4,000 word term paper will be required. Topics must be proposed and approved. A complete and polished draft will be submitted, and will be revised in light of comments received. NOTE: This seminar is cross listed in Philosophy and is open to a limited number of non law students. ** A student who fails to attend the initial meeting of a seminar (designated by an (S) in the title), or to obtain permission to be absent from either the instructor or the Registrar, may be administratively dropped from the seminar. Students who are on a wait list for a seminar are required to attend the first seminar meeting to be considered for enrollment.