Moral Education and the Ethics of Consent

Publication Title

The Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Consent


Peter Schaber & Andreas Muller

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date



Expressions of consent are valid only if freely given. Consent coerced at gunpoint is normally not binding, and subtler forms of influence also vitiate consent: hypnosis and brainwashing, for example. This leads to a difficulty for liberal theories of political obligation. How can a citizen, who has been raised from birth to believe she is morally bound to the state, validly consent to its demands? John Rawls and Bernard Williams each addressed the problem, and each proposed a similar solution: modes of moral and civic education do not preclude valid consent if the citizen would freely consent to have been educated in those ways. The argument of this chapter is that this solution leads to a dilemma: either the familiar practices of early education must be radically and pervasively reformed, or political philosophers must concede that state authority cannot be consensual “all the way down.”

Recommended Citation

William A. Edmundson, Moral Education and the Ethics of Consent, in The Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Consent 372 (Peter Schaber & Andreas Muller eds., Routledge, 2018).



First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.