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General Theory of Norms$
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Hans Kelsen

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780198252177

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198252177.001.0001

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The Principle of Autonomy—Conscience as Moral Authority

The Principle of Autonomy—Conscience as Moral Authority

(p.83) 19 The Principle of Autonomy—Conscience as Moral Authority
General Theory of Norms

Hans Kelsen

Oxford University Press

The theory that conscience is the moral legislator fails for the basic reason that conscience — either as feeling or as knowledge — is unable to posit norms, since norms prescribing how we ought to behave can only be the meaning of acts of will. But even if conscience is interpreted as a phenomenon of the will, it follows from the fact that the moral legislator for each subject is simply his own conscience that no one could judge the behaviour of others as morally good or bad. The moral evaluation of other people's behaviour presupposes that the members of a given social community react morally in generally the same way to human behaviour — their own or that of others.

Keywords:   principle of autonomy, conscience, moral authority, acts of will, social community, human behaviour

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