The costs of disobedience: A reply to Delmas

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According to the Samaritan principle, we have a duty to rescue others from perils when we can do so at no unreasonable cost to ourself or others. Candice Delmas has argued that this principle generates a duty to engage in civil disobedience, when laws and practices expose people to ‘persistent Samaritan perils’: by engaging in this form of protest, she claims, citizens can contribute to the rescue of the victims of serious injustice. In this article, I contend that her argument confuses duties of rescue with duties of justice. Furthermore, I point out that two central features of civil disobedience, namely, communicativeness and conscientiousness, make it unsuitable as a strategy for ‘rescue operations’. On the one hand, communicative constraints make civil disobedience time-consuming, and dependent on others’ willingness to engage in the communicative exchange. On the other, conscientiousness often requires agents to accept costs well beyond the threshold warranted by the Samaritan principle. Treating civil disobedients akin to ‘good Samaritans’ trivialises the selflessness of their sacrifices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-148
Number of pages6
JournalRes Publica
Early online date06 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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