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The Scope of the Participant’s Perspective in Joseph Raz’s Theory of Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 July 2015

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This article explores Joseph Raz’s methodological thesis about the conceptual priority of the participants of legal practices in the understanding of law. In particular, it contends that given the participant’s conceptual priority in the understanding of law we must conclude that legitimate authority is a necessary property of law. It argues that to maintain that a claim to legitimate authority is the necessary property of law, and not legitimate authority itself, as Raz does, we must abandon the participant’s perspective. It defends that Raz introduces his thesis of the claim to legitimate authority of law without further justification, and deprives it from support from a methodological point of view.

Research Article
Copyright © Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 2012

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1. Raz, Joseph, “On the Nature of Law” (1996) 82 Archiv für Rechts- und Sozial Philosophie 1 at 13Google Scholar[Raz, “On the Nature of Law”].

2. For a reading of Raz in this sense, see Caracciolo, Ricardo, “El concepto de autoridad normativa. El modelo de las razones para la acción” (1991) 10 Doxa 67 at 74 ffCrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3. Raz, Joseph, “The Relevance of Coherence” in Ethics in the Public Domain (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994) 261 at 281Google Scholar [Raz, “The Relevance of Coherence”].

4. Raz, Joseph, “Why Interpret” (1996) 9:4 Ratio Juris 349 at 358CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5. Although it is possible to say that Raz finds in Herbert Hart’s theory of law ( Hart, HLA, The Concept of Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961)Google Scholar [Hart, The Concept of Law]) his immediate theoretical antecedent, he arrives—as we shall see—to different conclusions in the way he understands the participant’s perspective, and the role he maintains this perspective has in the explanation of what is law.

6. Williams, Bernard, “Internal and external reasons” in Moral Luck. Philosophical Papers 1973-80 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981) at 101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

7. I find then problematic the author’s affrmations that to explain the concept of law is a secondary task of the theory of law, and that to explain the nature of law is its primary task (see Raz, Joseph, “Can there be a Theory of Law” in Golding, Martin & Edmunson, William, eds, The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005) 324 at 327-28Google Scholar [Raz, “Can There be a Theory of Law“]. For a development of a criticism to Raz regarding to this issue, see Gaido, Paula, “The Purpose of Legal Theory: Some Problems with Joseph Raz’s View” (2011) 30:6 Law & Phil 685 CrossRefGoogle Scholar [Gaido, “The Purpose of Legal Theory”].

8. For Hart—it could be remembered—it is not necessary for all the members of the legal practice to adopt the internal point of view, or the internal point of view to be verified regarding all the rules that integrate the legal system. In particular, it is necessary for at least the members of the government structure—especially judges—to adopt the internal point of view with regard to the rule of recognition—the master rule of the system. In turn, when Hart says that acceptance of the rule of recognition by the officials of the system is necessary, he does not mean that the rest of the rules in the system are in fact not accepted, but that this acceptance is not a necessary condition for the existence and stability of the legal system in general. Cf Hart, The Concept of Law, supra note 5 at 113.

9. Ibid at 78, 100-07.

10. Coleman, Jules, “Methodology” in Coleman, Jules, Shapiro, Scott & Himma, Kenneth Einar, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) at 336.Google Scholar In tune with this analysis one might relate the way Hart understands the concept of law with Max Weber’s ideal types. Here it is possible to recall Ernesto Garzón Valdés characterization of the different ways to understand the notion of ideal type; see Valdés, Ernesto Garzón, Derecho y naturaleza de las cosas. Análisis de una nueva versión del derecho natural en el pensamiento jurídico alemán contemporáneo I (Córdoba, AR: Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, 1970) at 39.Google Scholar

11. Hart, The Concept of Law, supra note 5 at 198-99; Hart, HLA, “Postscript” in The Concept of Law, 2d ed by Bulloch, Penelope A & Raz, Joseph (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994) 238 at 257Google Scholar; Hart, HLA, “Commands and Authoritative Legal Reasons” in Raz, Joseph, ed, Authority (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990) 92 at 103Google ScholarPubMed [Raz, Authority]; Hart, HLA, “Legal and Moral Obligation” in Melden, A I, ed, Essays in Moral Philosophy (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1958) 82 at 92-93Google Scholar.

12. See Raz, Joseph, Practical Reason and Norms (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990) at 17.Google Scholar

13. See Raz, Joseph, “The Purity of the Pure Theory” in Tur, Richard & Twining, William, eds, Essays on Kelsen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986) at 79 Google Scholar [Raz, “The Purity of Pure Theory”]; Raz, Joseph, “Hart on Moral Rights and Legal Duties” (1984) 1:4 Oxford J Legal Stud 123 CrossRefGoogle Scholar [Raz, “Hart on Moral Rights and Legal Duties”]. It must be remembered that in earlier works this connection is not always clear; rather his statements give rise to an opposite interpretation. Bayón highlights this switch in Bayón, Juan Carlos, La normatividad del derecho (Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales, 1991) at 37 n 39, 38 n 42Google Scholar.

14. Raz, “Can There be a Theory of Law”, supra note 7. Raz, Joseph, “The Problem of Authority: Revisiting the Service Conception” (2006) 90 Minn L Rev 1003 Google Scholar.

15. The participant’s conceptual priority, as we shall see, is not equivalent to state that they master the concept of law or that they can never be wrong in identifying correct examples of law. I will return later to these distinctions.

16. It seems that Raz adheres to non-individualistic conceptual relativism (See Raz, “On the Nature of Law”, supra note 1 at 6; Raz, Joseph, “Two Views of the Nature of the Theory of Law: A Partial Comparison” (1998) 4 Legal Theory 249 at 281CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Roughly speaking, non-individualistic conceptual relativism maintains that the concept of a thing is the way in which a group conceives it. The measure of correctness of the use of a concept here is determined by a community’s shared use of certain criteria. See Baghramian, Maria, Relativism (New York: Routledge, 2004) at 212 Google Scholar ff.

17. Raz, “Can There be a Theory of Law”, supra note 7 at 332, 335.

18. Ibid at 331.

19. Gaido, “The Purpose of Legal Theory”, supra note 7.

20. Manero, Juan Ruiz, “Entrevista a Joseph Raz” (1991) 9 Doxa 321 at 335CrossRefGoogle Scholar [translated by author]. See also Raz, Joseph, “Teoría y conceptos: réplica a Alexy y Bulygin” translated by Brigido, R Sánchez, in Bouvier, H, Gaido, P & Brigido, R Sánchez, eds, Una discusión sobre teoría del derecho: Joseph Raz, Robert Alexy, Eugenio Bulygin (Madrid: Marcial Pons, 2007) at 120 Google Scholar [Raz, Teoría y conceptos].

21. Raz, “Hart on Moral Rights and Legal Duties”, supra note 13 at 130.

22. Ibid.

23. Raz, “On the Nature of Law”, supra note 1 at 13; Raz, “The Purity of Pure Theory”, supra note 13.

24. Raz, Joseph, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986) at 46 Google Scholar [Raz, The Morality of Freedom]; see also in this same line Raz, “On the Nature of Law”, supra note 1 at 14.

25. The legitimate character of authority is assessed, for Raz, from the individual’s point of view (Raz, The Morality of Freedom, supra note 24 at 71-104), and taking the set of its directives into account (Raz, “On the Nature of Law”, supra note 1 at 11). What I seek to highlight is that for Raz the legitimacy of authority should not be assessed taking into account each of its directives or with regard to all its subjects generally. The sample from which to assess the legitimacy of authority is the set of its directives, and the relevant relationship to determine its legitimacy is individual, not collective. In this line of thought, it is not possible for Raz to predicate a general duty of obedience regarding law.

26. Joseph Raz, “Introduction” in Raz, Authority, supra note 11 at 4. This conclusion poses numerous problems. Exploring them goes beyond the purpose of this article.

27. See Raz, Teoría y conceptos, supra note 20 at 113-14; Raz, “Can There be a Theory of Law”, supra note 7 at 326.

28. Raz, Joseph, “Intention in Interpretation” in George, R, ed, The Autonomy of Law: Essays on Legal Positivism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) 249 at 260Google Scholar [Raz, “Intention in Interpretation”].

29. Raz, Ethics in the Public Domain, supra note 3 at 201.

30. See Raz, “Intention in Interpretation”, supra note 28 at 260-61.

31. Ibid.

32. Raz, Joseph, “About Morality and the Nature of Law” (2003) 48 Am J Juris 1 at 14CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

33. Raz, Joseph, “Incorporation by Law” (2004) 10 Legal Theory 1 at 6-7CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

34. Raz, “The Relevance of Coherence”, supra note 3 at 281.

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