Browsing Philosophic Exchange by Subject "Democracy"
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Civil Disobedience in a Constitutional DemocracyCivil disobedience is an action that is intended to appeal to the public, to show that they have violated principles that they otherwise generally accept. This is why acts of civil disobedience must be public acts. Acts of civil disobedience cannot involve violence to persons, for that might provoke fear, which undermines the public’s ability to listen to the appeal. The civil disobedient accepts his punishment in order to demonstrate his commitment to the rule of law, and also to demonstrate the seriousness of his commitment to the principles that have been violated by the public.
Remarks on Violence and Paying the PenaltyThe civil disobedient need not accept his punishment in order to demonstrate his commitment to the rule of law, and in some circumstances it would be inappropriate to do so. The use of violence is justified when and only when the pain, suffering, and injustice that we overcome thereby outweighs the pain, suffering and injustice that results from our actions. There have been circumstances in recent history in which, it is plausible to believe, these conditions were met.
Response to Professor Marshall CohenAt trial, a civil disobedient may appeal to his reasonable belief in the unconstitutionality of the law that he violated. However, he cannot appeal to any technical difficulties that would require him to lie about his performance of the act in question, or about the role of his conscience in motivating his action.