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Legal Obligation in Hume

Legal Obligation in Hume 85, There is one aspect of the thought of David Hume that seems to me to be important and topical, especially if considered in relation to two reductionist and dogmatic tendencies that are still noticeable in the general theory of law. By dogmatic I understand conceptions that are insufficiently founded on experience. The first of these two dogmatic tendencies is the emphasis placed on the notion of sanction which is viewed by some as prevailing over the concept of obligation to the point of absorbing it within itself. Law is that which the superior bodies of the dominant class impose. This doctrine has been affirmed even recently. But the master example is given by Bentham. To say that a man has the obligation to behave in a certain way is equivalent to saying that if he does not behave so, he will experience pain (or the absence of pleasure) . Legal sanction is the source from which this pain comes. Thus Bentham goes so far as to say that pain is constitutive of obligation in all its forms. This seems to be contrary to experience and common sense. In fact, one can observe a legal obligation independently of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Hume Studies Hume Society

Legal Obligation in Hume

Hume Studies , Volume 7 (1) – Jan 26, 1981

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Publisher
Hume Society
Copyright
Copyright © Hume Society
ISSN
1947-9921
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Abstract

85, There is one aspect of the thought of David Hume that seems to me to be important and topical, especially if considered in relation to two reductionist and dogmatic tendencies that are still noticeable in the general theory of law. By dogmatic I understand conceptions that are insufficiently founded on experience. The first of these two dogmatic tendencies is the emphasis placed on the notion of sanction which is viewed by some as prevailing over the concept of obligation to the point of absorbing it within itself. Law is that which the superior bodies of the dominant class impose. This doctrine has been affirmed even recently. But the master example is given by Bentham. To say that a man has the obligation to behave in a certain way is equivalent to saying that if he does not behave so, he will experience pain (or the absence of pleasure) . Legal sanction is the source from which this pain comes. Thus Bentham goes so far as to say that pain is constitutive of obligation in all its forms. This seems to be contrary to experience and common sense. In fact, one can observe a legal obligation independently of

Journal

Hume StudiesHume Society

Published: Jan 26, 1981

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