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Francisco Suárez on Consent and Political Obligation

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Interpreters disagree on the origin that Francisco Suárez assigns to political obligation and correlative political subjection. According to some, Suárez, as other social contract theorists, believes that it is the consent of the individuals that causes political obligation. Others, however, claim that for Suárez, political obligation is underived from the individuals' consent which creates the city. In support of this claim they invoke Suárez's view that political power emanates from the city by way of "natural resultancy". I argue that analysis of Suárez's less studied De voto and De iuramento reveals that, for Suárez, consent causes both the city and the citizen's political obligation. Moreover, close inspection of the notion of causation by natural resultancy within Suárez's metaphysics shows that what emanates from the body politic in this fashion is not, as claimed, political subjection and political obligation, but rather the city's right to self-mastership. Because for him political obligation does originate in consent it is not incorrect to regard Suárez as a social contract theorist.

Affiliations: 1: Aston University, UK

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