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Interpretation in International Law$
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Andrea Bianchi, Daniel Peat, and Matthew Windsor

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198725749

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198725749.001.0001

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Cognitive Frames of Interpretation in International Law

Cognitive Frames of Interpretation in International Law

Chapter:
(p.331) 16 Cognitive Frames of Interpretation in International Law
Source:
Interpretation in International Law
Author(s):

Martin Wählisch

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198725749.003.0016

This chapter explores the relationship between frames of interpretation and the objectivity of the law. Cognitive frames can help to build coalitions and mobilize international state consensus; at the same time, they can hinder the development of universal principles and relativize the application of norms. Overall, individual and institutional frames shape the interpretation of international law; they eventually change the substance of law while competing for ‘semantic authority’ in international legal practice. The chapter assesses in three case studies how linguistic nuances and distinctions have reflected colliding concepts and values. It is argued that the existence of different frames, despite their subjective nature, do not necessarily affect the objectivity of the law. The ‘biased lexicon’—in other words the choice of vocabulary of interpreters—is a reflection of the circumstance that international law is a dialogue of competing ideas and a constantly evolving process that can hold contradicting interpretations simultaneously.

Keywords:   cognitive frames, interpretation, objectivity, self-awareness, responsibility

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