"Complicity & Hypocrisy"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
Politics, Philosophy & Economics
Publication Type
Journal Article

This article offers a justification for accommodating claims of conscience. The standard justification points to the pain that acting against one’s conscience entails. But that defense cannot make sense of the state’s refusal to accommodate individuals where the law interferes with their deeply meaningful but nonmoral projects. An alternative justification, we argue, arises once one recognizes the connection between conscience and moral address: One’s lived moral convictions determine when and with what force one can hold others to account. Acting against one’s convictions can undermine one’s standing to blame others who act in similar ways. When the state compels someone to act against conscience, it renders her complicit in conduct she takes to be wrong and thereby impairs her ability to condemn similar conduct in the future, in a manner akin to the hypocrite. The reason the state should not compel people to act against conscience, then, is that doing so would undercut their moral standing.

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