Suppose there is something that, for all our sakes, desperately needs to get done by all of us, collectively, together (say if all of us, or any of us, are to remain alive for long). Suppose you know this. And suppose you also know some other things. First, decisive action is required – there is no room here for taking lots of time to come up with a plan and execute it and no room for dispute or any committee-type process in the planning or execution. Second, you know that your buddy Clem knows at least as much or more than anyone else about how to come up with and execute the right plan and, importantly, has a big “leadership presence” and is ready to take charge. Third, you know that, unless any given step in the planning or execution is terribly, terribly wrong, what is more important than getting any given step right is that each step is good enough – and gets done decisively.
It seems pretty obvious that, in such a situation, even if you are temperamentally anti-authority and even if, at some or several steps in Clem formulating and implementing his plan and that involve him ordering you to do things, you reasonably think you know better, what you have most reason to do is obey Clem’s order. And, similarly, you should approve of (and help enforce) similarly somewhat-suspect orders that Clem gives to others.
Now this is perhaps not quite authority. For it is not clear that, in this sort of situation, Clem’s even-somewhat-suspect orders make you obligated to obey (with his issuing the order being an essential part of the grounds) as opposed to simply giving you sufficient reason to obey (with his issuing the order being an essential part of the grounds). I’ll call this “ersatz authority.” But I think we are, here, at least part of the way toward a pretty-hard-nosed justification of authority. And one that relies only on familiar, prosaic sorts of valuable ends and ordinary standards of instrumental reasoning about them. We might regard this as a rather non-controversial way of bringing “the logic of collective action” under the auspices of individual reasoning for the case of authority (or ersatz authority at least).
Though I think there are actual situations that close-enough match this scenario, this need not be the case for my point here (about possible ways of justifying authority or something close to it).
From here, I want to do two things – though I will, for now, refrain from doing them and only name/describe them. First, I want to say some things about how (partially subjective) justification – as opposed to (entirely objective) reliability – in instrumental reasoning might work in such cases. If there is a wide range of somewhat-similar cases in which people typically do not have the relevant background beliefs or knowledge about the need for the right sort of de facto authority relationships (so that the above sort of justification is not available), might relevant benefits of collective action be achieved by equipping our psychologies with additional ends? Might this be possible and might those additional ends be, or have to be, in competition with the relevant primary ends (and thus often be taken, upon reflection, as irrational even if beneficial; e.g., ‘obeying just feels right’ as with ‘trusting the testimony just feels right’). Second, and perhaps relatedly, I want to explore how, in such a situation, one could be (morally) obligated to obey – not merely have sufficient (moral) reason – to obey.
But first things first: does this sort of case establish that it is possible to rationally justify the indicated sort of “ersatz authority”? Any chance I could get the usual PoT suspects to come to some “overlapping consensus” here?