Winch on Political Authority & Obedience

  • Marina BarabasEmail author
Part of the Nordic Wittgenstein Studies book series (NRWS, volume 6)


The article considers Peter Winch’s novel approach to Contractarianism in his 1990 “Certainty and Authority”, which links Hume’s criticism with arguments from Wittgenstein’s On Certainty. To do so he argues against the desire-belief conception of action, the view that any reasonable action, including obedience, is based on justified belief. He argues instead that rationality is itself based on primitive and habitual trust obedience of authority, and that far from grounding community, rationality is integral to the practices of the community and is presupposed by any reasonable decision and action. Against this I argue that primitive reaction and habit cannot make sense of obligation, including that of obedience, because it ignores its conceptual and free character; furthermore that the genealogical and linear account cannot deal with political authority understood as rule of law, the latter being itself in an essential part the product of theoretical, indeed philosophical, reasoning.


Social contract theory Rationality Political philosophy Agency Authority/obedience 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PhilosophyCzech Academy of SciencesPragueCzech Republic

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