Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience

Oxford University Press (2012)
This book shows that civil disobedience is generally more defensible than private conscientious objection. Part I explores the morality of conviction and conscience. Each of these concepts informs a distinct argument for civil disobedience. The conviction argument begins with the communicative principle of conscientiousness. According to this principle, having a conscientious moral conviction means not just acting consistently with our beliefs and judging ourselves and others by a common moral standard. It also means not seeking to evade the consequences of our beliefs and being willing to communicate to them to others. The conviction argument shows that, as a constrained, communicative practice, civil disobedience has a better claim than private objection does to the protections that liberal societies give to conscientious dissent. This view reverses the standard liberal picture which sees private 'conscientious' objection as a modest act of personal belief and civil disobedience as a strategic, undemocratic act whose costs are only sometimes worth bearing. The conscience argument is narrower and shows that genuinely morally responsive civil disobedience honours the best of our moral responsibilities and is protected by a duty-based moral right of conscience. Part II translates the conviction argument and conscience argument into two legal defences. The first is a demands-of-conviction defence. The second is a necessity defence. Both of these defences apply more readily to civil disobedience than to private disobedience. Part II also examines lawful punishment, showing that, even when punishment is justifiable, civil disobedients have a moral right not to be punished.
Keywords conscience  conviction  civil disobedience  conscientious objection  punishment
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ISBN(s) 0191645923   9780191645921   9780199592944
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Hon-Lam Li (2015). Contractualism and Punishment. Criminal Justice Ethics 34 (2):177-209.

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