Jean Goodwin On a stray planet in an out-of-the-way corner of the universe live odd beings with patterns of behavior odder still. It can be frequently observed that one of them stands before another, moving its limbs or producing some sounds, and the other responds--apparently quite as the first expected. But why? Why should these feeble motions have such force? This puzzle or wonder is presented to us conspicuously in the phenomenon we know as authority. Authority is exercised most starkly in transactions similar to the following: The speaker says: "Do [or, believe] this." Her auditor replies: "Why?" And the speaker replies in turn: "Because I say so, that's why!" --and that seems enough said. Police officers might thus address traffic violators; parents, children; expert paleobotanists, the ignorant; and senior colleagues, junior. In each case, the speaker's simply being who she is, and her saying something, is enough to justify or, indeed, compel the auditor's response. This transaction seems doubly odd. We find here mere sounds exerting significant social force. Moreover, we find the participants themselves wondering about this force: They question authority. Political philosophers, after all, have doubted the legitimacy of political authority, and logicians have declared
Philosophy and Rhetoric – Penn State University Press
Published: Feb 1, 2001
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