Res Publica

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 173–188 | Cite as

Law Without Legitimacy or Justification? The Flawed Foundations of Philosophical Anarchism



In this article, I examine A. John Simmons’s philosophical anarchism, and specifically, the problems that result from the combination of its three foundational principles: the strong correlativity of legitimacy rights and political obligations; the strict distinction between justified existence and legitimate authority; and the doctrine of personal consent, more precisely, its supporting assumptions about the natural freedom of individuals and the non-natural states into which individuals are born. As I argue, these assumptions, when combined with the strong correlativity and strict distinction theses, undermine Simmons’s claim, which is central to his philosophical anarchism, that a state may be justified in enforcing the law, even if illegitimate or unjustified in existing.


A. John Simmons Philosophical anarchism Political obligation Rights and obligations Justification and legitimacy 



I am grateful to Prof. John Horton and Prof. Glen Newey, as well as two anonymous referees from Res Publica, for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Foundation Year CentreKeele UniversityKeeleUK

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