doing what one is told to do by someone with authority over one

Complementary virtues

Contrasting vices

  • disobedience
  • rebellion
  • subservience (vice of excess)

Virtues possibly in tension

How to acquire or strengthen it


Notes and links


Mentioned elsewhere

Inspirational quotes

  • But beware, obedience can be trouble if it’s used to deflect the moral consequences of your actions onto those you obey: “‘Where lies the power, there let the blame lie too.’ / Nay, power is relative; you cannot fright / The coming pest with border fortresses, / Or catch your carp with subtle argument. / All force is twain in one: cause is not cause / Unless effect be there; and action’s self / Must needs contain a passive. So command / Exists but with obedience.” ―George Eliot, Middlemarch
  • “No commands of man I respect so highly that I obey them before the immutable and unwritten laws” ―Sophocles
  • “[T]here is no such thing as obedience in political and moral matters. The only domain where the word could possibly apply to adults who are not slaves is the domain of religion, in which people say that they obey the word or the command of God because the relationship between God and man can rightly be seen in terms similar to the relation between adult and child. ¶ Hence the question addressed to those who participated and obeyed orders should never be, ‘Why did you obey?’ but ‘Why did you support?’ … Much would be gained if we could eliminate this pernicious word ‘obedience’ from our vocabulary of moral and political thought. If we think these matters through, we might regain some measure of self-confidence and even pride, that is, regain what former times called the dignity or the honor of man: not perhaps of mankind but of the status of being human.” ―Hannah Arendt
  • “There is but one obligation and that is the obligation to obey the highest dictate. — None can lay me under another which will supersede this. The Gods have given me these years without any incumbrance — society has no mortgage on them. If any man assist me in the way of the world, let him derive satisfaction from the deed itself — for I think I never shall have dissolved my prior obligations to God.” ―Thoreau