The Principle of Autonomy—Conscience as Moral Authority

Hans Kelsen

in General Theory of Norms

Published in print March 1991 | ISBN: 9780198252177
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681363 | DOI:
The Principle of Autonomy—Conscience as Moral Authority

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The theory that conscience is the moral legislator fails for the basic reason that conscience — either as feeling or as knowledge — is unable to posit norms, since norms prescribing how we ought to behave can only be the meaning of acts of will. But even if conscience is interpreted as a phenomenon of the will, it follows from the fact that the moral legislator for each subject is simply his own conscience that no one could judge the behaviour of others as morally good or bad. The moral evaluation of other people's behaviour presupposes that the members of a given social community react morally in generally the same way to human behaviour — their own or that of others.

Keywords: principle of autonomy; conscience; moral authority; acts of will; social community; human behaviour

Chapter.  1716 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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