What is Lunch?
"What is Lunch?" is a unique tradition within the Philosophy Department. Several times each semester, the department will host a lunch for all Philosophy majors, minors, and any students currently enrolled in a Philosophy course. The event brings together students and faculty from the Philosophy department to discuss a topic of a faculty member's choosing. After a brief introduction, everyone collectively watches a short video relating to current events and philosophical themes before opening up the space to discuss larger questions and potential answers.
Prior Topics and Discussions
Are We Obligated to Obey the Law?
December 7, 2018
During the “What is Lunch?” on Friday, professors and students discussed and debated this question after being prompted by a video presented by Professor Bajaj of the Philosophy department. The video can be viewed at the following link: https://youtu.be/RMrTqHc15kk.
In the video, Matthew Chrisman of the University of Edinburgh draws a distinction between obedience and compliance. The conversation evolves into something known as "tacit consent," where a person who chooses to live in a society thus implicitly agrees to its laws, for they did not leave when it was possible to do so. Tacit consent is most famously portrayed in the Socratic dialogues, where Socrates decides to accept the unjust verdict of the Athenian jury and be killed. Socrates' argument is that he tacitly consented to the governance and laws of Athens by living within Athens and never leaving at a time when he had the chance, nor did he publicly dissent from such laws, therefore he must obey the jury.
The video sparked some debate against laws that are universally wrong, such as lynch and slave laws from history. If there are some laws that are bad, and according to moral truths one should not obey them, is one still obligated to obey them? The forthcoming discussion led to questions like “If there are some laws we are obligated to obey, and some we are not, what makes a law worthy to obey, and if we cannot define a law as something we must obey, are we even obligated to obey any laws in virtue of them being laws?” The room contained a variety of political beliefs: anarchism, democratism and republicanism, and anywhere in between.
There was general agreement among the participants by the end of lunch that obeying the law only because it is the law is a poor argument.
Summary by Glory Jacquat and Joshua Shapin