This Independent Study thesis is divided into five chapters. In the first chapter, “Introduction”, I will be introducing my project and announce what I am getting at in my research. I will propose my question “do citizens have a moral obligation to obey the law” and will map out a brief description of the direction I will be heading.

The second chapter, “What is Law”, will explain why it is important that I first discuss what a legitimate legal system would look like. I need to understand this in order to understand what a genuine law is. This chapter will be discussing the proposed legal system of John Austin. Chapter 1 concludes that, while Austin has provided a starting point for a legal system, he only provides a portion of what a legitimate legal system might look like. I will continue to develop a legitimate legal system in chapter two.

In chapter three, “What is a Legitimate Legal System”, I will begin by restating the question posed in chapter 1 “what would a legitimate legal system look like?” I will continue by stating the features of a legal system that I have learned thus far from John Austin. I will then introduce the legal systems developed by legal philosophers H.L.A. Hart and Lon Fuller. I will combine the necessary concepts in each theory in order to set up what a legitimate legal system would look like and how its laws would be created and legitimized.

In chapter four, “The Cases in Favor”, I will be addressing the main question of my project: “Do citizens have a moral obligation to obey the law?” Chapter 3 will be discussing the cases in favor of this question. It will introduce the conceptions of Plato, John Rawls, and A. John Simmons. I will be placing special emphasis upon the principle of fair play. I will continue to examine this principle for the rest of the project. I will conclude this chapter by discussing why, according to these theories, it would seem that the answer to my question is “yes”.

In chapter five, “The Principle of Fair Play as a Solution”, I will compare the arguments that would claim that citizens do not have a moral obligation to obey the law to the principle of fair play. This chapter will introduce theories such as utilitarianism and justified civil disobedience. This chapter will conclude by stating that the principle of fair play ultimately presents the best answer to my question.


Riley, Evan




Arts and Humanities | Law

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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