AUTHORITY.—(1) The power allowed to common opinion ; (2) the weight of testimony
coming from those who are experts or specialists; (3) ethical, the power to
command under sanction of moral law; (4) civil, the power of constitutional
rulers. "The principle of adopting the belief of others
on a matter of opinion, without reference to the particular grounds on which the
belief may rest" (Sir G. C. Lewis, On Authority in Matters of Opinion, p. 6).
"This word is sometimes employed in its
primary sense, when we refer to any one's example, testimony, or
judgment; as when, e.g., we speak of correcting a reading
in some book on the authority of an ancient MS., or
giving a statement of some fact on the authority of such
and such historians, &c. In this sense the word answers pretty
nearly to the Latin auctoritas. It is a claim to
deference. Sometimes, again, it is employed as equivalent to
potestas, power, as when we speak of the authority of
a magistrate. This is a claim to obedience" (Whately,
Logic, app. I.).
Una in re consentio omnium gentium lex naturæ putanda est (Cicero,
Multum dare solemus prœsumptioni omnium hominum: Apud nos veritatis argumentum
est, aliquid omnibus videri (Seneca, epist. CXVII.).