Honors Program

Honors in Philosophy

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Paul Tudico

Thesis Professor Department

Philosophy and Humanities

Thesis Reader(s)

Allen Coates


Governmental sovereignty is created and maintained by mutual respect for the rule of law by the government and citizens. To maintain legitimacy, a government must act within the bounds of the contract that created it. Otherwise, the relationship founded by said contract would be nullified, as would the duties and obligations that flow from that relationship. Torture exemplifies an ultra vires act used by the United States to show the consequences of over-extended authority on political legitimacy and the rule of law. Founded on the philosophies of Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, and Christine Korsgaard, this research investigates the nature of a government, its authority, and the laws that it must obey. By considering the role of a government as an artificial man or a representative agent, I argue that regardless of the limits or lack thereof for governmental power, the self-interest of a government illegalizes any action that violates its founding documents. If a government does commit such an act, the rule of law is negatively affected, and political legitimacy and authority are damaged. This behavior, when repeated and unamended, will destroy the relationship between the people and their government, diminish the contract, and return the people to a state of nature.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Copyright by the authors.