Volume 36, Issue 1, January 2020
Hypothetical Consent and Political Obligation
Hypothetical Consent Situations are widely employed in normative argument as if they help to justify normative claims or to explain normative facts. Historically, however, there is plenty of suspicion about them. In this light, there is a tendency to prefer theories of political obligation that do not depend upon hypothetical consent to explain political obligations – those that appeal, for instance, a general moral principle (like a natural duty) or to actual consent. This paper makes no full-throated defense of hypothetical consent. But it does try to identify more carefully than is usually done what sorts of cases they represent and to show that at least two concerns about them are unwarranted.