Intellectual authority is defined as the authority of arguments that prevail by virtue of good reasoning and do not depend on coercion or convention. A contrasting notion, institutional authority, refers to the power of social institutions to enforce acceptance of arguments that may or may not possess intellectual authority. The authority wielded by legal systems is especially interesting because such systems are institutions that nonetheless aspire to a purely intellectual authority. One judge goes so far as to claim that courts are merely passive vehicles for applying the intellectual authority of the law and possess no coercive powers of their own.
In contrast, some critics maintain that whatever authority judicial pronouncements have is exclusively institutional. Some of these critics go further, claiming that intellectual authority does not really exist—i.e., it reduces to institutional authority. But it can be countered that these claims break down when a sufficiently broad historical perspective is taken: Not all arguments accepted by institutions withstand the test of time, and some well-reasoned arguments never receive institutional imprimatur. The reasonable argument that goes unrecognized in its own time because it challenges institutional beliefs is common in intellectual history; intellectual authority and institutional consensus are not the same thing.
But the critics might respond, intellectual authority is only recognized as such because of institutional consensus. For example, if a musicologist were to claim that an alleged musical genius who, after several decades, had not gained respect and recognition for his or her compositions is probably not a genius, the critics might say that basing a judgment on a unit of time—“several decades”—is an institutional rather than an intellectual construct. What, the critics might ask, makes a particular number of decades reasonable evidence by which to judge genius? The answer, of course, is nothing, except for the fact that such institutional procedures have proved useful to musicologists in making such distinctions in the past.
The analogous legal concept is the doctrine of precedent, i.e., a judge’s merely deciding a case a certain way becoming a basis for deciding later cases the same way—a pure example of institutional authority. But eh critics miss the crucial distinction that when a judicial decision is badly reasoned, or simply no longer applies in the face of evolving social standards or practices, the notion of intellectual authority is introduced: judges reconsider, revise, or in some cases throw out in the reconsideration of decisions, leading one to draw the conclusion that legal systems contain a significant degree of intellectual authority even if the thrust of their power is predominantly institutional.
Which one of the following most accurately states the main idea of the passage?
- Although some argue that the authority of legal systems is purely intellectual, these systems possess a degree of institutional authority due to their ability to enforce acceptance of badly reasoned or socially inappropriate judicial decisions.
- Although some argue that the authority of legal systems is purely institutional, these systems are more correctly seen as vehicles for applying the intellectual authority of the law while possessing no coercive power of their own.
- Although some argue that the authority of legal systems is purely intellectual, these systems in fact wield institutional authority by virtue of the fact that intellectual authority reduces to institutional authority.
- Although some argue that the authority of legal systems is purely institutional, these systems possesses a degree of intellectual authority due to their ability to reconsider badly reasoned or socially inappropriate judicial decisions.
- Although some argue that the authority of legal systems is purely intellectual, these systems in fact wield exclusively institutional authority in that they possess the power to enforce acceptance of badly reasoned or socially inappropriate judicial decisions.
That some arguments “never receive institutional imprimatur” most likely means that these arguments
- fail to gain institutional consensus
- fail to challenge institutional beliefs
- fail to conform to the example of precedent
- fail to convince by virtue of good reasoning
- fail to gain acceptance except by coercion
Which one of the following, if true, most challenges the author’s contention that legal systems contain a significant degree of intellectual authority?
- Judges often act under time constraints and occasionally render a badly reasoned or socially inappropriate decision.
- In some legal systems, the percentage of judicial decisions that contain faulty reasoning is far higher than it is in other legal systems.
- Many socially inappropriate legal decisions are thrown out by judges only after citizens begin to voice opposition to them.
- In some legal systems, the percentage of judicial decisions that are reconsidered and revised is far higher than it is in other legal systems.
- Judges are rarely willing to rectify the examples of faulty reasoning they discover when reviewing previous legal decisions.
Based on the passage, the author would be most likely to hold which one of the following views about the doctrine of precedent?
- it is the only tool judges should use if they wish to achieve a purely intellectual authority.
- It is a useful tool in theory but in practice it invariably conflicts with the demands of intellectual authority.
- It is a useful tool but lacks intellectual authority unless it is combined with the reconsidering of decisions.
- It is often an unreliable tool because it prevents judges from reconsidering the intellectual authority of past decisions.
- It is an unreliable tool that should be abandoned because it lacks intellectual authority.