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Law and Philosophy

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 255–278 | Cite as

The Service Conception: Just One Simple Question

  • Nikolas Kirby
Open Access
Article

Abstract

It is crystal clear that the Service Conception includes at least three conditions, what I shall call: the ‘normal justification condition’, the ‘independence condition’ and the ‘dependence condition’. The overarching rationale of these conditions is that they ensure that authority is only justified when it provides the best means for the subject to conform to the reasons for action that she actually has. However, it is difficult to clarify whether Raz implicitly presupposes a fourth necessary condition. This condition might be called a ‘reliable belief condition’, that is, that the putative subject must reliably believe that the putative authority-agent satisfies the Service Conception (or more precisely, its other three conditions). In sum, the purpose of this paper is to pose Joseph Raz one simple question: is it a necessary condition of your Service Conception, that the subject believes that the authority-agent satisfies the Service Conception? As a matter of interpretation, different parts of Raz’s work appear to lead in entirely opposite directions: some parts clearly support the reliable belief condition, others do not. Regardless of Raz’s ultimate answer, however, the question reveals a broader inconsistency. Only if the Service Conception does include the belief condition will it support Raz’s claim that authority is consistent with one’s rational ‘self-reliance’, that is, acting upon one’s own judgement (including, as to who has authority). Only if the Service Conception does not include the belief condition will it support Raz’s perfectionist account of government. It seems Raz must choose between one or other.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departmental Lecturer in Philosophy and Public Policy, Blavatnik School of GovernmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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