Is Authority Real?

p(quote). Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the bootmaker.

p>. -- Mikhail Bakunin, _God and the State_

p(quote). By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes to be his duty against the influences of authority and majorities, custom and opinion.

p>. -- Lord Acton, _History of Freedom_

p(quote). Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.

p>. -- Francis Bacon

p(quote). In a discussion of this kind our interest should be centered not on the weight of the authority but on the weight of the argument. Indeed the authority of those who set out to teach is often an impediment to those who wish to learn. They cease to use their own judgment and regard as gospel whatever is put forward by their chosen teacher.

p>. -- Cicero, _The Nature of the Gods_

p(quote). In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.

p>. -- Galileo

p(quote). Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.

p>. -- Thomas Huxley

p(quote). In theology we must consider the predominance of authority; in philosophy the predominance of reason.

p>. -- Johannes Kepler

p(quote). Authority has every reason to fear the skeptic, for authority can rarely survive in the face of doubt.

p>. -- Robert Lindner

p(quote). Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.

p>. -- Daniel Webster

p(quote). Respect my authority!

p>. -- Eric Cartman, _South Park_

p(quote). Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

p>. -- Philip K. Dick

Is "authority" real? All but the last of the quotes above use the word "authority"--do any seem to mean the same thing by it?

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Indeed they do not. Most of

Indeed they do not. Most of them mean "opinion."

Philip Dick nailed it on the the head there - there's opinion, and there's reality.

Sometimes they coincide.

So many quotes about

So many quotes about authority, and Cartman not among them?? You could've slipped it in there towards the end and waited to see if anyone noticed... :)

Cap'n--to quote another

Cap'n--to quote another famous cartoon character--D'oh! I don't know what I was thinking.

Bakunin seems to actually be

Bakunin seems to actually be talking about authority, whereas everyone else seems to be targeting unjust authority (including cartman.) There's nothing inherently wrong with authority, it just has to justify itself; it's not assumed to be valid and a healthy scepticism (ala Lindner's quote) is vital.

That's interesting, matt.

That's interesting, matt. You say Bakunin seems to be the only one talking about "real" authority, yet the rest of the quotes use the word in those senses which are much more commonly intended when the word "authority" is used.

You could substitute the word "expertise" for the word "authority" in the Bakunin quote, and it would still parse, and, I think, still mean the same thing. Does that work with any of the others?

The word "authority" seems to be used to refer to a large class of ideas, some of which are very dissimilar, or even contradictory.

What do you (everyone, not just matt) think that indicates about the word "authority"? What about the concept of authority?

I love the Daniel Webster

I love the Daniel Webster quote... I might have to hold onto that one. As for authority I think their can be objective authority. In authority we see the word "author" that implies to me the author or creator of a given set of information. Or perhaps in some cases the authority is the only person who could create a given set of information.

I am the ultimate authority for example on what my own favorite foods are. Which is why if someone told you that you were wrong about that, unless they knew you quite intimately, or were joking, they would be a fool. Why? because the ultimate authority on that subject is always oneself...

What is your name?
What is your quest?
What is your favorite color?

Well Qiwi, you're right

Well Qiwi, you're right about the other quotes, but the dictionary has a few good definitions of authority that seem to beg for a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate authority like:
An accepted source of expert information or advice
Justification
Power to influence or persuade resulting from knowledge or experience

Even the word authorization seems to have some positive connotations denoting earned power. I think Bakunin's definition is fairly reasonable (alot of what he wrote was).