Thursday, September 15, 2022

Consent and inner acts

Some people think that a constituent (whole or partial) of consent is some sort of inner mental act of agreement with the thing one consents to. Here is an argument against this:

  1. A request or command does not require an inner mental act of agreement.

  2. Someone who requests or commands something necessarily consents to its performance.

  3. So, consent does not require an inner mental act of agreement.

(One can also qualify the requests, commands and consents as valid in all the premises, and the argument remains sound, I think.)

That said, consent does require some inner component, as does request or command. Consent requires a relevant communicative act to be performed intentionally. Similarly, to request or command something is not just to utter some sounds (or make some gestures, etc.), but to do so intending to be taken as requesting or commanding.


Walter Van den Acker said...


I am not sure about your first premise. Why would anyone request or command something they don't agree with?

SMatthewStolte said...

I’m having a hard time seeing what is being denied here.
Suppose I request that you “bring me a cup of coffee” and thereby consent to your bringing me a cup of coffee. Do we need to ask a further question about whether I have also agreed to your bringing me a cup of coffee? What would that further question mean?

Alexander R Pruss said...


As I understand the opposite view, consent requires some sort of attitude of okayness about the thing one is consenting to. On some versions of the view, the attitude is necessary and sufficient (and the communicative act is just evidence of the attitude), and on others, it is necessary.


You may think it's your duty to command something but hope that the command will be disobeyed. It's easy to imagine examples.

Or you are trying to embarrass a bartender by ordering an obscure drink you don't want and which you hope they won't be able to prepare. Nonetheless, if the bartender can prepare said drink, you've consented to it.