Legitimate legal authority and the obligation to obey : An analysis of Joseph Raz´s arguments on legitimate authority
Abstract: Two central issues in literature discussing legal authority seems to the the questions of what the law has when it has authority and under what conditions the law can be said to have authority. This thesis analyses an answer to these two questions as it has been developed by legal philosopher Joseph Raz. The analysis is conducted through scrutinizing the relation within and between three central concepts in Raz´s theory on legal authority; authority as normative power, the service conception and the obligation to obey. As for the concept of normative power, Raz seems to alternate between defining normative power as the ability to change protected reasons for action and as being a protected reason for action. The question the thesis aims to answer is whether normative power is best understood as the ability to change protected reasons for action or as being a protected reason for action? Raz does not seem to make a distinction between the two and thus, he regards both definitions as plausible. However, the analysis suggests that while it might be plausible to use both definitions as a definition of normative power, they are not interchangeable, but rather seems to represent two different levels of normative power. The analysis of the second concept, the service conception, examines Raz´s statement that justified exclusionary reasons entail a moral obligation to obey the law. Here the thesis asks if a moral obligation to obey is a plausible consequence of justified exclusionary reasons, given Raz´s own definition of obedience. The analysis suggests that a moral obligation to obey is not a plausible consequence of exclusionary reasons being justified and thus, that there seems to be incoherence between the two. Lastly, the thesis asks about the coherence between Raz´s two statements A. that justified exclusionary reasons entail a moral obligation to obey and B. that there is no moral obligation to obey the law. This last question had to be somewhat revised as the first statement (A) had already been suggested to be incoherent by the previous analysis. As such, this last question was revised into asking how the law can have legitimate authority when its legitimacy is tied to a moral obligation to obey, which is denied by Raz? The analysis suggests that these two statements are incoherent and that, as such, it is implausible that the law has the possibility to have legitimate authority at the same time as there exists no moral obligation to obey, as the former is dependent on the latter. The thesis ends in a number of concluding reflections.
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