Legal Theory

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“A Nod's as Good as a Wink”: Consent, Convention, and Reasonable Belief

David Archarda1

a1 University of St. Andrews

Consider the following examples of behavior by Smith:

1. Smith, seated at her restaurant table, gives an order to the waiter;

2. Smith gets into a cab and names a destination;

3. Smith agrees to Jones's suggestion that they go back to Jones's apartment for a few drinks;

4. Smith casts her vote in some election.

In each of these instances what can Smith be understood as consenting to? Is she consenting to (1) pay the bill for whatever meal she orders; (2) pay the fare for the journey to her named destination; (3) sexual intimacy with Jones; and (4) accept the authority of whatever individual or political part is elected? The fact that Smith does not actually express her consent to each of these states of affairs or outcomes need not mean that she is not giving her consent to them. The idea that individuals can give their consent in ways other than by means of a formal verbal expression of agreement is a familiar, if controversial, one.