Raz on Reasons, Reason, and Rationality: On Raz's From Normativity to Responsibility
Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies
If like me you are someone who has long-admired Joseph Raz and followed his work, then reading his latest book, From Normativity to Responsibility, will be another uniquely Razian treat. There are the subtle distinctions, the complex layers of interrelated argument, and above all the frequent moments of "Aha!" when, after working through an especially intricate passage one sees that Raz has, as usual, come at an idea in an unexpected and insightful way. Over the past 40-odd years, Raz has
... ears, Raz has written some of the deepest, richest, and most insightful work about law, authority, reasons, political morality, individual morality, practical reason, and value. 1 From Normative to Responsibility, which offers a unified account of normativity and its relation to individual responsibility, is as deep, rich, and insightful as the rest. The big idea behind FNR is our Being in the World. Raz wants to understand how we are in the world, that is, our place in and relation to the world. He takes as his starting point the idea that how we are in the world is a matter of our engagement with it, and our engagement is essentially normative in character. Certain features of the world make it appropriate for other features of the world to exist. We engage in the world by responding to those features, for example by having certain attitudes and performing certain actions. When our response to a feature is to bring about the features it is appropriate to bring about, we respond appropriately. In short, our being in the world is a matter of our appropriately responding to features of the world that make it appropriate for other features of the world to exist. This relation of appropriateness between some features of the world and between those features and our responses is one of normativity. In order to explain our Being in the World, then, we need to understand normativity.