Billy Budd and the Duty to Enforce the Law

Philosophy Research Archives 11:245-268 (1985)
Abstract
Herman Melville’s Billy Budd presents a classic example of a legal official legally required to enforce a law he believes or knows to be unjust. Although there has been considerable discussion of a citizen’s moral duty to obey unjust laws, there has been little consideration of a legalofficial’s duty to enforce unjust laws.In this paper I take the central moral dilemma of the novel -- a legal official’s moral duty to enforce a valid law of a legal system vs. his moral duty not to do or to contribute to injustice -- and discuss various moral considerations that would bear on this dilemma. By doing this I hope to contribute both to the moral issues involved as weIl as, to some extent, the literary criticism with regard to Billy Budd
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0164-0771
DOI 10.5840/pra19851114
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