LEGS Seminar

Arudra V. Burra, Ph.D. candidate, Philosophy

"The Significance of Consent"

April 26, 2010, 4:30 - 6 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets once every two weeks during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students. 

In the LEGS Seminar on April 26, Arudra V. Burra will present "The Significance of Consent." 

The paper is available here (password required).

Here is Arudra's abstract:

Consent plays an important role in moral thought and talk. There are some things we can’t do to others except with their consent: have sex with them or cause them pain, for instance; and there are some actions which, as long as they are “between consenting adults,” seem immune from certain kinds of scrutiny and interference. What is consent and how does it play these roles? That is the general question to which this paper is addressed. 

I argue that the term 'consent' plays not one but many roles in our moral and legal vocabulary, which it is important to distinguish. I examine the ways in which coercion and deception vitiate or invalidate consent, and suggest that it is a mistake to think that they do so by rendering acts of consent somehow "involuntary." What emerges is a view of consent on which its normative significance is less important, and less philosophically mysterious, than one might otherwise suppose.

While my focus is on the role of consent in moral philosophy, the law provides an important set of examples and puzzles which any theory of consent should be able to accommodate. My paper deals in particular with the legal doctrine of "rape by fraud," and with the role of consent more generally as a defense to a charge of wrongdoing in the criminal law.