The Role of Authority

Philosophers' Imprint, Forthcoming

U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 201

50 Pages Posted: 25 May 2010 Last revised: 29 May 2010

See all articles by Scott Hershovitz

Scott Hershovitz

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: May 25, 2010


The most influential account of authority – Joseph Raz's service conception – is an account of the role of authority, in that it is an account of its point or function. However, authority does not have a characteristic role to play, and even if it did, the ability to play a role is not, by itself, sufficient to establish authority. The aim of this essay is to shift our focus from roles that authority plays to roles that people play – which we can also call roles of authority – such as chef, teacher, and parent. To justify authority, we need to justify the practices in which roles of authority play a part.

Keywords: Authority, Roles, Joseph Raz, Stephen Darwall

Suggested Citation

Hershovitz, Scott, The Role of Authority (May 25, 2010). Philosophers' Imprint, Forthcoming, U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 201, Available at SSRN:

Scott Hershovitz (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

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