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Full text of "Authority and the individual"

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law-breaking becomes a duty: it is a duty when
a man profoundly believes that it would be a sin to
obey. This covers the case of the conscientious
objector. Even if you are quite convinced that he is
mistaken, you cannot say that he ought not to act
as his conscience dictates. When legislators are wise,
they avoid, as far as possible, framing laws in such
a way as to compel conscientious men to choose
between sin and what is legally a crime.
I think it must also be admitted that there are cases
in which revolution is justifiable. There are cases
where the legal government is so bad that it is
worth while to overthrow it by force in spite of the
risk of anarchy that is involved. This risk is very real.
It is noteworthy that the most successful revolutions—
that of England in 1688 and that of America in 1776—
were carried out -by men who were deeply imbued
with a respect for law. Where this is absent, revolu-
tion is apt to lead to either anarchy or dictatorship.
Obedience to the law, therefore, though not an
absolute principle, is one to which great weight must
be attached, and to which exceptions should only be
admitted in rare cases after mature consideration.
We are led by such problems to a deep duality in
ethics, which, however perplexing, demands recogni-
Throughout recorded history, ethical beliefs have
had two very different sources, one political, the
other concerned with personal religious and moral
convictions. In the Old Testament die two appear