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Philosophical Foundations of Language in the Law$
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Andrei Marmor and Scott Soames

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572380

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572380.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 December 2021

What Vagueness and Inconsistency Tell Us About Interpretation

What Vagueness and Inconsistency Tell Us About Interpretation

(p.31) 3 What Vagueness and Inconsistency Tell Us About Interpretation
Philosophical Foundations of Language in the Law

Scott Soames

Oxford University Press

This chapter identifies three categories of cases in which applying the content of existing law to the facts of a case doesn't determine a unique, acceptable legal outcome: firstly, those involving borderline cases of vague concepts in which no definite outcome is determined; secondly, those involving conflict of equally authoritative legal provisions in which two or more inconsistent outcomes are determined; and finally, those in which the content of existing law determines a unique outcome which is nevertheless unacceptable because it is inconsistent with a full rendering of the purpose the law was designed to serve. Regulative principles are offered to guide the resolution these cases, in which legal interpretation involves substantive revision or extension of pre-existing legal content. The unavoidability of such cases is discussed, together with the legal values served by legislative understanding of the uses to which vagueness and certain forms of inconsistency can be put.

Keywords:   vagueness, borderline case, textualism, meaning, semantic content, illocutionary intentions, perlocutionary intentions, legal positivism, normativity, legislative purpose

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