OPEN TEXTURE AND THE POSSIBILITY
OF LEGAL INTERPRETATION


David Lyons

Boston University School of Law Working Paper 99-9

Abstract

Legal interpretation has recently enjoyed much theoretical attention. The received theory of law's open texture implies, however, that legal interpretation (in the sense of ascertaining the actual meaning of a law) is impossible when language gives rise to reasonable uncertainty or disagreement about the law's meaning and proper application. Ideas surrounding the received theory imply that interpretation is impossible whenever there is reasonable uncertainty or disagreement, from any source, about law's meaning or proper application. The theory thus indicates that there is little scope for a theory of legal interpretation. This paper argues that the received theory misconstrues the legal implications of the open texture of language and provides an untenable basis for rejecting the possibility of legal interpretation.

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David B. Lyons Contact Information

dbl@bu.edu
Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215
USA
(617) 353-3135

Presentation and Publication Information:

This paper was presented to the Annual Conference of the Australian Society of Legal Philosophy, Canberra, 30 April 1999; a short version was earlier presented to the Melbourne University Philosophy Women's Committee Lunchtime Series.

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