Quiet Resistance: The Value of Personal Defiance

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What reason does one have to resist oppression? The reasons that most easily come to mind are those having to do with justice—reasons that arise from commitments to human equality and the common good. In this paper, I argue that there are also reasons of love—reasons that arise from personal attachments to specific people, projects, or activities. I defend a distinctive form of resistance that is characteristically undertaken for reasons of love, which I call Quiet Resistance. Contrary to theories that build reasons of justice into the definition of resistance, I argue that we have strong reason to consider Quiet Resistance a genuine form of resistance. Finally, I argue that the reasons in favor of engaging in Quiet Resistance help to explain its distinctive value. In short, when one engages in Quiet Resistance, one’s actions are valuable in large part because they allow one to maintain respect for one’s personal values and meaning in life under oppressive conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-422
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Ethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 7 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thanks to Bernard Boxill, Roy T. Cook, Thomas E. Hill, Jr., Sarah Holtman, Jennifer Kling, Douglas MacLean, Ram Neta, Cat Saint-Croix, Geoff Sayre-McCord, Valerie Tiberius, Susan Wolf, and three anonymous referees for valuable feedback on previous drafts of this paper. I am also grateful for helpful discussions with audiences at The University of North Carolina, The University of Minnesota, The 2018 Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, and the 2019 Pacific APA. Special thanks to Philip Bold for crucial feedback throughout the development of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. part of Springer Nature.


  • Love
  • Oppression
  • Protest
  • Reasons of love
  • Resistance


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