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4 - Sovereignty and Consent

from Part I - Background Controversies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 November 2023

Steven Wall
Affiliation:
University of Arizona
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Summary

Proponents of the harm principle often appeal to a notion of personal sovereignty in setting out their position. This notion helps to fix the application of the harm principle. Critics of the harm principle seize on this point and argue that, once a principle of sovereignty is introduced, it can do all the work that needs doing. Appeals to harm become otiose. Further, the critics contend, the harm principle cannot explain the impermissibility of certain “harmless” wrongs, such as those involved in harmless trespass. This chapter assesses this sovereignty-centered critique of the harm principle. It argues that neither the harm principle nor the sovereignty principle enjoys priority over the other. The two principles complement each other with neither meriting a privileged position. The chapter then discusses the content and stringency of the sovereignty principle, and its relation to the Volenti Maxim, which holds that a person is not harmed or wronged by that to which they consent. The critical discussion of the Volenti Maxim, in turn, reveals limits to the sovereignty principle.

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Enforcing Morality , pp. 64 - 86
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • Sovereignty and Consent
  • Steven Wall, University of Arizona
  • Book: Enforcing Morality
  • Online publication: 03 November 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009363808.004
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  • Sovereignty and Consent
  • Steven Wall, University of Arizona
  • Book: Enforcing Morality
  • Online publication: 03 November 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009363808.004
Available formats
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To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Sovereignty and Consent
  • Steven Wall, University of Arizona
  • Book: Enforcing Morality
  • Online publication: 03 November 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009363808.004
Available formats
×