Tacit Consent and Civil Disobedience


  • Thomas Schestag
Keywords: Private and public ears, civil disobedience (in Thoreau and Arendt on Thoreau), two prisoners (Socrates in Athens; Thoreau in Concord), Pilate (in Arendt and Eichmann), Plato (Crito, Gorgias), homología (in Plato), tacit consent (in Arendt)

Abstract

Refering back to the (juridical) cases of Socrates (in Athens) and Thoreau (in Concord), which both discuss dissent, Hannah Arendt’s essay “Civil Disobedience” elaborates on the question of a strict distinction or complicity between a single person’s moral decisions, and its participation, as member of a group, in political decision-making. How to approach the relation between morals and politics, ethics and jurisdiction; or, still otherwise, between Polis and Ethos, both words pointing (in different ways) towards places or sites? Both these topoi turn out to be linguistically determined through and through, constantly haunted by the question of how to speak (or not to speak), of how to listen (in order to obey or disobey, to consent or dissent) to what the laws do have to say (though not speaking at all). At the core of this tense and obscure paralinguistic relation to the (moral and juridical) law, between express and tacit consent (or dissent), silence and speech (or silence as speech), language and mutism, phasis and aphasia, lies the notion of homología, as discussed by Socrates in Plato’s dialogues Crito and Gorgias (to which Arendt’s essay constantly refers). This contribution takes on the Platonic notion of homología (as a promise of consent about a law’s content), and its relation to Hannah Arendt’s original and challenging version of the political and juridical notion of tacit consent, as discussed in “Civil Disobedience.”

Author Biography

Thomas Schestag

Professor of German Language
Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island, USA 02912
e-mail: thomas_schestag@brown.edu 

References

Arendt, Hannah (1970). “Civil Disobedience.” New Yorker, September 12, 1970, 46.

Arendt, Hannah (1972a). “Civil Disobedience.” In Is Law Dead? Ed. Eugene V. Rostow, 212–43. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Arendt, Hannah (1972b). “Civil Disobedience.” In Crises of the Republic, 49–102. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Arendt, Hannah (2006). Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil [1963]. London: Penguin Books.

Hume, David (1987). “Of the Original Contract” [1748]. In Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary. Ed. Eugene F. Miller, 253–67. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.

Plato (1914). Crito. In Plato I, Loeb Classical Library 36. Trans. Harold North Fowler, 147–91. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Plato (1980). Gorgias. Trans. Terence Irwin. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rousseau, Jean­ Jacques (1995). Œuvres complètes, vol. 5 [1758]. Eds. Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond. Paris: Gallimard.

Shakespeare, William (1997). “The Tragedy of Richard the Third.” In The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, 507–600. New York: W.W. Norton.

Stangneth, Bettina (2014). Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer. Trans. Ruth Martin. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Thoreau, Henry David (1973). “Resistance to Civil Government.” In Reform Papers. Ed. Wendell Glick, 63–90. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Published
2018-07-28
How to Cite
Schestag, T. (2018). Tacit Consent and Civil Disobedience. Stasis, 6(1). https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.33280/2310-3817-2018-6-1-104-119