David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophy and Geography 4 (1):97 – 107 (2001)
According to current definitions of civil disobedience, drawn from the work of John Rawls and Carl Cohen, eco-saboteurs are not civil disobedients because their disobedience is not a form of address and/or does not appeal to the public's sense of justice or human welfare. But this definition also excludes disobedience by a wide range of groups, from labor activists to hunt saboteurs, either because they are obstructionist or because they address moral concerns other than justice or the public weal. However earlier definitions of civil disobedience were not so narrow. I review the development of the current definition and the circumstances of its acceptance. I argue that the circumstances which help to explain the attractiveness of the Rawls/Cohen formulations in the 1970s are no longer applicable and that the question of civil disobedience should be revisited. I suggest a wider definition according to which at least some types of eco-sabotage would be civil disobedience.
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