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A critique of the concept–nature nexus in Joseph Raz’s methodology

Nye, Hillary (2017) A critique of the concept–nature nexus in Joseph Raz’s methodology. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. ISSN 0143-6503

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Identification Number: 10.1093/ojls/gqw007


Joseph Raz employs a methodology according to which we can learn truths about the nature of law by examining our concept of law. This article is devoted to interpreting and critiquing this idea, which I call the ‘concept–nature nexus’. I propose three interpretations of the concept–nature nexus that attempt to make sense of it, and expose the flaws in each. The first employs immodest conceptual analysis and is problematic for that reason. The second I call the ‘spotlight view’, and I argue that it makes sense of the concept–nature nexus only by defining the thing in question in a stipulative way that undermines the enterprise. The third relies on the idea that our concepts make the law what it is; I argue that this could make our concepts relevant to understanding law’s nature, but would involve prioritising the views of the legal officials with the power to make law what it is, which conflicts with Raz’s approach. I conclude that, in the absence of some further account of the concept–nature nexus, we should abandon it. In closing, I briefly explore methodological possibilities that require only a concept–concept or a nature–nature nexus, but suggest that these face their own problems.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Oxford University Press
Divisions: Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2016 15:54
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2021 01:10

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