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Conscience and ConvictionThe Case for Civil Disobedience$
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Kimberley Brownlee

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199592944

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592944.001.0001

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Demands-of-Conviction Defence

Demands-of-Conviction Defence

(p.155) 5 Demands-of-Conviction Defence
Conscience and Conviction

Kimberley Brownlee

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that there should be a recognized legal excuse for conviction-driven disobedience of the law. This excusatory defence is premised upon respect for personal autonomy and psychological integrity. Given the communicative, non-evasive nature of true conviction, this legal excuse applies more readily to civil disobedience than to personal disobedience. Recognition of the defence would allow society to honour the links between autonomy, psychological integrity, and conscientiousness by not requiring us either always to give priority to the law over our deep commitments or always to remain surreptitious and self-censoring in our efforts to dissociate from laws we oppose. The chapter responds to two objections to this legal defence for civil disobedience, which are the strategic action problem and the democracy problem.

Keywords:   conviction, legal excuse, autonomy, psychological integrity, democracy

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