Raz, Joseph 1939–

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RAZ, Joseph 1939–

PERSONAL: Original surname Zaltsman; name legally changed, 1963; born March 21, 1939, in Haifa, Palestine (now Israel); son of Shmuel (an electrician) and Sonya (a nurse; maiden name, Alterkovsky) Zaltsman; married Yael Rappeport, September 20, 1963 (divorced, 1981); children: Noam. Education: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, M.J., 1963; Oxford University, D.Phil., 1967.

ADDRESSES: Office—Balliol College, Oxford University, Oxford OX1 3BJ, England.

CAREER: Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, lecturer in law and philosophy, 1967–70; Oxford University, Oxford, England, research fellow at Nuffield College, 1970–72, tutorial fellow at Balliol College, 1972–85, professor of philosophy of law and ad hominem chair of department, 1985–. Visiting professor, Rockefeller University, 1974, Australian National University, 1979, University of California—Berkeley, 1984, University of Toronto, 1987, Yale Law School, 1988, University of Southern California, 1989, Columbia University, 1991, 1995–, and University of Michigan Law School, 1994; visiting Mellon fellow, Princeton University, 1993; philosopher in residence, University of Michigan, 2001. Member of advisory committee for Central European University philosophy department, 2000–. Military service: Israel Army, 1957–59; became sergeant.

MEMBER: British Academy (fellow), American Academy of Arts and Sciences (foreign honorary member).

AWARDS, HONORS: W. J. M. Mackenzie book prize, Political Science Association (England), and Elaine and David Spitz prize for best book in democratic or liberal theory, Conference for the Study of Political Thought, both 1986, both for The Morality of Freedom. Honorary doctorate, Catholic University, Brussels, Belgium, 1993.


The Concept of a Legal System: An Introduction to the Theory of Legal System, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1970, second edition, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1980.

Practical Reason and Norms, Hutchinson (London, England), 1975, second edition, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1990.

(Editor, with P. M. H. Hacker) Law, Morality, and Society: Essays in Honour of H. L. A. Hart, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1977.

(Editor) Practical Reasoning, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1978.

The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1979.

The Morality of Freedom, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1986.

(Editor) Authority, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Ethics in the Public Domain: Essays in the Morality of Law and Politics, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor, with P. A. Bulloch, and author of postscript) H. L. A. Hart, The Concept of Law, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994, second edition, Clarendon Press (London, England), 1999.

Engaging Reason: On the Theory of Value and Action, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Value, Respect, and Attachment, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor and author of introduction) Christine M. Korsgaard, Robert Pippin, and Bernard Williams, The Practice of Value, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to numerous books, including Oxford Essays in Jurisprudence, edited by A. W. B. Simpson, Oxford University Press, 1973; Practical Reason, edited by S. Korner, Blackwell, 1974; Liberty and the Rule of Law, edited by R. L. Cunningham, Texas A & M University Press, 1979; Lloyd's Introduction to Jurisprudence, fifth edition, Stevens, 1984; Theories and Rights, edited by J. Waldron, Oxford University Press, 1984; Reason & Experience in Contemporary Legal Thinking, edited by T. Eckhoff and others, Verlag Dunkler & Hublot, 1986; Issues in Contemporary Legal Philosophy, edited by R. Gavison, Oxford University Press, 1987; Equality and Liberty, edited by J. Angelo Corlett, Macmillan, 1991; Natural Law, Volume 2, edited by J. Finnis, Dartmouth, 1991; Natural Law Theory, edited by R. George, Oxford University Press, 1992; Legal Positivism, edited by Mario Jori, Dartmouth, 1992; Jurisprudence, Rights and Their Foundations, edited by J. Coleman and A. Sebok, Garland Publications, 1994; Ethics and Economics, edited by A. Hamlin, Edward Elgar, 1995; Law and Interpretation, edited by A. Marmor, Oxford University Press, 1995; The Autonomy of Law, edited by R. P. George, Oxford University Press, 1996; Reason, Ethics and Society, edited by J. B. Schneewind, Open Court, 1996; Law, Values and Social Practices, edited by J. Tasioulas, Dartmouth, 1997; Incommensurability, Incomparability and Practical Reason, edited by R. Chang, Harvard University Press, 1998; Normativity and Norms, edited by S. and B. Paulson, Oxford University Press, 1999; The Duty to Obey, edited by W. A. Edmundson, Rowman & Littlefield, 1999; Political Philosophy: Selected Readings, edited by G. Sher and B. Brody, Harcourt, 2000; Moral Particularism, edited by B. Hooker and M. Little, Oxford University Press, 2000; Objectivity in Law and Morals, edited by B. Leiter, Cambridge University Press, 2000; Well-Being and Morality: Essays in Honour of James Griffin, edited by R. Crisp and B. Hooker, Oxford University Press, 2000; Hart's Postscript, edited by J. Coleman, Oxford University Press, 2001; Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes from Harry Frankfurt, edited by S. Buss and L. Overston, MIT Press, 2002; and Liberalism: Critical Assessments, edited by G. W. Smith, Routledge, 2003.

Coeditor of "Clarendon Law Series," Oxford University Press; editor, with Liam Murphy, of online series Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1999–. Contributor to professional journals, including Iyuun, Mishpatim, Ethics, California Law Review, Mind, Yale Law Journal, American Journal of Jurisprudence, Modern Law Review, American Philosophical Quarterly, Law Quarterly Review, Philosophical Law, Political Studies, Virginia Law Review, Harvard Law Review, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Inquiry, Notre Dame Journal of Law Ethics & Public Policy, Michigan Law Review, Monist, California Law Review, Iowa Law Review, Southern California Law Review, and others. Member of editorial board, Law and Philosophy, 1982–, Ratio Juris, 1988–, American Journal of Jurisprudence, 1990–, Ethics, 1993–, Isonomia, 1994–, Res Publica, 1997–, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2000–, and International Journal of Constitutional Law, 2001–; editorial board member for book series, including "La Pensée Juridique," LGDJ (Paris, France), 1989–, "The Philosophy of History and Culture," Brill, 1990–, and "Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Law," 1997–. Consultant or editorial advisor to other journals, including the American Journal of Jurisprudence. Raz's books have been translated into Spanish, Japanese, Ukrainian, and Italian.

SIDELIGHTS: A professor of the philosophy of law at Balliol College, Oxford, Joseph Raz has long been concerned with the topics of ethics and morality as they relate to politics and the legal system. Said to be a promoter of "legal positivism" in his writings, as a legal theorist Raz has argued that the authority of the state is beneficial to society and that government and the legal system should, by and large, be obeyed by citizens who have the obligation to do so because it is in the best interests of everyone. Furthermore, this authority generally must take precedent over the range of individual concepts of morality and values (value pluralism), which are subjective and thus do not always apply to everyone. Raz, a liberal optimist who believes that government and the law can be beneficial forces, argues these and other points in such books as The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality and The Morality of Freedom, which have been lauded as important works in the field. Though Raz's writing style can often make for dense and difficult reading, even for his colleagues, his arguments are often praised as well-reasoned and convincing. "Raz's work is especially impressive when viewed as a whole," commented Christopher W. Morris in an Ethics review of Ethics in the Public Domain: Essays in the Morality of Law and Politics. "He has certain views about reason and value, and these motivate his accounts of politics, law, and society. These views (e.g., value pluralism) may help explain the coherence of the corpus. Raz's writings establish him as one of the most important political and juridical thinkers of" modern times.

Three books by Raz, The Authority of Law, The Morality of Freedom, and Ethics in the Public Domain, go far in defining the philosopher's theories on political authority and individual values and autonomy. In The Authority of Law Raz explains the legal positivist stance that holds that moral codes and laws are not always connected but that this does not make the legal system any less legitimate; people must acknowledge that law is an essential institution for maintaining an ordered civilization. However, as David Lyons noted in his Philosophical Review article on the book, the author also "makes clear that any reasons for action provided by law do not add up to a general obligation to obey the law." The exceptions to this obligation, says Raz, only come when the law has been set up to prevent individuals from participating in the legal process, or when it runs contrary to a "respect for the autonomy of persons." Of the author's arguments, Modern Law Review critic J. W. Harris concluded, "Raz's conceptual and substantive moral discussions of 'the authority of law' lie uneasily together. They appear to entail the remarkable conclusion that one who admits to an attitude of respect for the law, and also affirms that a certain legal rule exists, cannot consistently so much as consider reasons for not obeying the rule." But Thomas Morawetz asserted in Ethics that although the book is marked by "an abstract and arid style" it should be considered "essential reading" because it shows Raz to be "a remarkably skillful interpreter of the positivist legal philosophers."

Raz's The Morality of Freedom continues the philosopher's arguments concerning political authority and individual duties. "The book's overall project is ambitious and innovative," declared Ernest Marshall in Noûs, "and is apparently nothing less than to develop a theory that grounds both political freedom and personal morality in the value of autonomy." Given that government is established for the benefit of individuals, Raz reasons, the individual should accept the state's authority over him or her and obey its directives as the reason for performing an action, rather than considering only those reasons that apply directly to the individual. However, there are some limits to this power of the state over the individual, beginning when questions of personal autonomy come into play. Yet the collective good takes precedence over personal autonomy, and therefore, as Philosophical Review writer John Martin Fischer stated, "It is perhaps the most important thesis of the book that liberal rights, although based on personal autonomy, are not based on individualism." Wading through Raz's arguments can be difficult, but Fischer felt it is worth the effort because The Morality of Freedom "is stimulating, challenging, and insightful throughout. [Raz's] basic theses are intriguing and important. His argumentation illuminates and ties together a wide range of issues in moral and political theory."

Ethics in the Public Domain further elaborates ideas expressed in The Morality of Freedom. As Morris explained, this essay collection is divided "into two parts, one largely concerned with some of the political implications of the perfectionist position defended in The Morality of Freedom, the other with various issues concerning the nature of law and the relations between law and morality." As a liberal, Raz believes that government and the law play key roles in promoting the public good and that individual freedom is also necessary. While the author focuses on issues of freedom in his earlier book, in Ethics in the Public Domain he also discusses "the importance for the individual's well-being of belonging to a cultural group, and the role of an active life (as opposed to a passive life) in the good life," explained Avishai Margalit in the Journal of Philosophy. Observing, as many other critics have, that Raz's philosophy is based on the perfectionist belief that the point of autonomy and of government is the pursuit of the good life, William Lucy further pointed out in his Modern Law Review analysis of Ethics in the Public Domain that Raz "stands in marked contrast to those accounts of liberalism offered by, inter alios, Friedrich von Hayek, John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin, which insist that political and legal decisions, practices and institutions must stand independent of any account of the good life." Raz's spin on liberalism, in addition, is distinct from others of this school of thought in that he maintains that individuals are inextricably embedded into their community. Thus, for Raz, a consensus of what is good and right is essential for any society. "This is a powerful vision of liberalism," stated Lucy.

While many critics have admired Raz's original philosophical arguments, some have found his theories so abstract that they remain merely intellectual exercises. "Raz's strengths," claimed Eileen Bresnahan in an American Political Science Review article about Ethics in the Public Domain, "are closely wedded to his weaknesses. A central strength of his theory is its acutely logical structure and elegance. But this is bought at the price of a high level of abstraction and detachment from reference to practical politics. Indeed, although one cannot help but admire Raz's facility at constructing beautifully crafted arguments, one also cannot help but feel dismayed that so much effort has so often gone into the production of airless theoretical castles, indifferent to embodied living." But, as Morris pointed out, Raz's arguments are abstract by necessity because they drive at the heart of the matter, which is an effort to explain the very basis of what law is and what it means to society: "Raz argues that we cannot understand law without understanding what it claims to be, even if it fails and does not live up to its self-image."



American Political Science Review, September, 1995, Eileen Bresnahan, review of Ethics in the Public Domain: Essays in the Morality of Law and Politics, p. 751.

Ethics, April, 1981, Thomas Morawetz, review of The Authority of Law, pp. 516-519; April, 1992, J. D., review of Practical Reason and Norms, p. 686; July, 1996, Christopher W. Morris, review of Ethics in the Public Domain, pp. 817-833.

Journal of Philosophy, February, 1998, Avishai Margalit, review of Ethics in the Public Domain, pp. 97-104.

Modern Law Review, July, 1981, J. W. Harris, review of The Authority of Law, pp. 482-484; January, 1996, William Lucy, review of Ethics in the Public Domain, pp. 145-149.

Noûs, March, 1994, Ernest Marshall, review of The Morality of Freedom, pp. 96-98.

Philosophical Quarterly, October, 1971, D. N. MacCormick, review of The Concept of a Legal System: An Introduction to the Theory of Legal System, pp. 380-381; July, 1976, C. H. Whitely, review of Practical Reason and Norms, pp. 287-288; October, 1987, Gordon Graham, review of The Morality of Freedom, pp. 481-482.

Philosophical Review, July, 1982, David Lyons, review of The Authority of Law, pp. 461-465; April, 1989, John Martin Fischer, review of The Morality of Freedom, pp. 254-257; July, 1997, Henry Shue, review of Ethics in the Public Domain, pp. 453-455.

Political Studies, fall, 1995, John Horton, review of Ethics in the Public Domain, p. 588.

Political Theory, May, 1996, Nancy L. Rosenblum, review of Ethics in the Public Domain, pp. 333-338.

Times Literary Supplement, June 5, 1987; December 30, 1994, Neil MacCormick, "Free under the Law?"; January 31, 2003, Susan Wolf, "A Rose, by Any Other Name."