Legal Facts and Reasons for Action: Between Deflationary and Robust Conceptions of Law’s Reason-Giving Capacity

  • Noam GurEmail author
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 130)


This chapter considers whether legal requirements can constitute reasons for action independently of the merits of the requirement at hand. While jurisprudential opinion on this question is far from uniform, sceptical (or ‘deflationary’) views are becoming increasingly dominant. Such views typically contend that, while the law can be indicative of pre-existing reasons, or can trigger pre-existing reasons into operation, it cannot constitute new reasons. This chapter offers support to a somewhat less sceptical (but still qualified) position, according to which the fact that a legal requirement has been issued can be a reason for action, yet one that is underpinned by bedrock values which (under certain conditions and constraints) law is apt to serve. Notions discussed here include a value-based conception of reasons as facts (Sect. 1); a distinction between complete and incomplete reasons (Sect. 2); and David Enoch’s idea of triggering reason-giving (Sect. 3). Following a discussion of criticism against the view adopted here (Sect. 4), the chapter concludes by considering some more ‘robust’ conceptions of law’s reason-giving capacity (Sect. 5).


  1. Alvarez M (2010) Kinds of reasons: an essay in the philosophy of action. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bix BH (2011) The nature of law and reasons for action. Problema 5:399–415Google Scholar
  3. Bix BH (2018) Kelsen, Hart, and legal normativity. Revus 34:25–42.
  4. Bond EJ (1983) Reason and value. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Bongiovanni G (2018) Reasons (and reasons in philosophy of law). In: Bongiovanni G et al (eds) Handbook of legal reasoning and argumentation. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 3–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chang R (2004) Can desires provide reasons for action? In: Wallace RJ et al (eds) Reason and value: themes from the moral philosophy of Joseph Raz. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 56–90Google Scholar
  7. Claus L (2012) Law’s evolution and human understanding. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Coleman J (2001) The practice of principle. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Dancy J (2003) Practical reality. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  10. Ehrenberg KM (2011) Critical reception of Raz’s theory of authority. Philos Compass 6:777–785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ehrenberg KM (2016) The functions of law. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Enoch D (2011a) Reason-giving and the law. In: Green L, Leiter B (eds) Oxford studies in philosophy of law, vol 1. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 1–38Google Scholar
  13. Enoch D (2011b) Giving practical reasons. Philos Imprint 11(4):1–22Google Scholar
  14. Essert C (2013) Legal obligation and reasons. Legal Theory 19:63–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gardner J, Macklem T (2002) Reasons. In: Coleman JL, Shapiro SJ (eds) The oxford handbook of jurisprudence and philosophy of law. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 440–475Google Scholar
  16. Gur N (2013) Actions, attitudes, and the obligation to obey the law. J Polit Philos 25:326–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gur N (2018) Legal directives and practical reasons. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hart HLA (1982) Essays on Bentham. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  19. Hershovitz S (2011) The role of authority. Philos Imprint 11:1–19Google Scholar
  20. Himma KE (2007) Just cause you’re smarter than me doesn’t give you a right to tell me what to do. Oxf J Leg Stud 27:121–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hurd HM (1991) Challenging authority. Yale Law J 100:1611–1677CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Maguire B (2016) The value-based theory of reasons. Ergo 3:233–262Google Scholar
  23. Marmor A (2018) Norms, reasons, and the law. In: Himma KE et al (eds) Unpacking normativity: conceptual, normative, and descriptive issues. Hart, Oxford, Chap. 6Google Scholar
  24. Martin M (2014) Judging positivism. Hart, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  25. Mian E (2002) The curious case of exclusionary reasons. Can J Law & Juris 15:99–124Google Scholar
  26. Moore MS (1989) Authority, law, and Razian reasons. S Cal Law Rev 62:827–896Google Scholar
  27. Parfit D (2001) Rationality and reasons. In: Egonsson D et al (eds) Exploring practical philosophy. Ashgate, Aldershot, pp 17–39Google Scholar
  28. Perry SR (1989) Second-order reasons, uncertainty and legal theory. S Cal Law Rev 62:913–994Google Scholar
  29. Raz J (1986) The morality of freedom. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  30. Raz J (1989) Facing up: a reply. S Cal Law Rev 62:1153–1235Google Scholar
  31. Raz J (1990) Practical reason and norms, 2nd edn. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  32. Raz J (1995) Ethics in the public domain: essays in the morality of law and politics. Revised paperback edn. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  33. Raz J (1999) Engaging reason: on the theory of value and action. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  34. Raz J (2006) The problem of authority: revisiting the service conception. Minnesota Law Rev 90:1003–1044Google Scholar
  35. Raz J (2011) From normativity to responsibility. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Raz J (2016) Value and the weight of practical reasons. In: Lord E, Maguire B (eds) Weighing reasons. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 141–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Regan DH (1989) Authority and value: reflections on Raz’s morality of freedom. S Cal Law Rev 62:995–1095Google Scholar
  38. Regan DH (1990) Reasons, authority, and the meaning of “obey”: further thoughts on Raz and obedience to law. Can J Law & Juris 30:3–28Google Scholar
  39. Sarat A (1977a) Legal obligation: a survey study. Polity 9:384–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sarat A (1977b) Studying American legal culture: an assessment of survey evidence. Law Soc Rev 11:427–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Scanlon TM (1998) What we owe to each other. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  42. Schauer F (2015) The force of law. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  43. Schauer F (2016) How (and if) law matters: responding to Mark Greenberg, “How to explain things with force”. Harv Law Rev Forum 129:350–359Google Scholar
  44. Smith M (1994) The moral problem. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  45. Sunshine J, Tyler TR (2003) The role of procedural justice and legitimacy in shaping public support for policing. Law Soc Rev 37:513–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tyler TR (2006) Why people obey the law. With a new afterword by the author. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  47. Wiland E (2012) Reasons. Continuum, LondonGoogle Scholar
  48. Wolff RP (1970) In defense of anarchism. Harper & Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations