Legal interpretation involves the examination of legal texts such as legal texts, constitutions, treaties and wills. This chapter presents the fundamental question of what legal interpretation naturally seeks – and competing answers to that question. It then presents the main substantive theories of legal interpretation and explores in more detail some influential theories and the difficulties they face. Finally, the chapter discusses how theories of legal interpretation should be defended and evaluated. The „new originalists“ (see Section 3) explicitly advocate the use of the term „constitutional interpretation“ for the process of discovering the meaning of the constitutional text (distinct from „constitutional construction,“ an „essentially creative“ process of constructing meaning). But, with the important exception of Larry Solum (2010), it is clear from their writings that they do not systematically use the term „meaning“ to refer to linguistic meaning, but often seem to have in mind, for example, a legal norm or an understanding of how a legal norm applies to certain cases (e.g., Whittington 1999a, 5-11; Barnett, 2013, p. 419). See Section 4.2 for more examples. As suggested below, it can be argued that their views can be better constructed in such a way that the interpretation of the statute is directed to the content of the statute that they consider to be of „public importance“. What can be said about the assertion that legal interpretation seeks linguistic meaning? It is often taken as a starting point that interpretation is the activity of attribution issues. (e.g., Knapp & Michaels, 1982; 1983; Graglia, 1992; Fisch, 2005; 2008; Michaels, 2009; Alexander, 2013). By definition, according to one version of the argument, the interpretation of an object seeks its meaning – presumably in the strict sense of what that object symbolizes or represents. (If the term „meaning“ were understood in a broad sense, the argument could not give rise to any real limitation of legal interpretation.) A related argument is that legal interpretation is an example of linguistic interpretation and that linguistic interpretation seeks linguistic meaning (e.g., Soames, 2009; Alexander, 2011).

There is another type of problem with the collective intention proposal. Suppose a philosopher develops an account of what constitutes the collective intention of a large, diverse group whose attitudes conflict with each other. Let us further suppose that the collective intention of such a group depends in complex ways on how the group would behave in various counterfactual circumstances. (A complication is that what constitutes the collective intention of a group may be relative to the purposes for which the question is asked. But let`s leave this complication aside to reason.) Even if the philosopher`s account is a correct account of the nature of group spirit, another question is whether and to what extent legal interpretation should take into account the intentions set forth in such a report. This question cannot be resolved by philosophy of mind, as the answer depends on clear legal concerns, and the details of the purported representation of collective intentions would obviously be important. This question is in fact one aspect of a larger question about the appropriateness of different types of legislative intent in light of what legal interpretation seeks to achieve. If, for example, legal interpretation seeks the linguistic meaning of relevant legal texts, then legal intentions have little or no relevance to semantic and communicative intentions. The linguistic meaning of a text does not depend on the legal rules that people want to create by accepting the text.

[19] Similarly, intentions to use are only weak evidence of linguistic significance. On the other hand, communicative intentions, for example, are very relevant for pragmatically conveyed content such as speaker importance (see section 4.2 and entries on pragmatics; implicature; Paul Grice). The idea of what a reasonable person would assume that the speaker intended to communicate is consistent (although what a reasonable person would assume the speaker intended to communicate is not the meaning of a text or statement). In the case of legislation, however, it is not reasonable to assume, through the textualists` own lights, that the legislator wanted to communicate something. (For skepticism about Parliament`s intentions, see Section 4.1.) Legal writing is an art that should not be taken for granted. The importance of writing has been demonstrated in articles, letters, magazines, agreements, essays, reports, court cases, etc. These legal writings assist scholars in their legal work. Writing is not an innate skill and therefore needs to be developed. Good legal drafting must be precise, short, clear, orderly and original. „A truth or an established legal statement so clear that it cannot A prominent camp of publicly important originalists are the new originalists (Whittington 2004; 2013; Barnett, 1999; 2013; Solum, 2010; 2013a; 2013b; 2015; see also Goldsworthy, 1997). Thus, the examples given by textualists concerning the interpretation of ordinary communication and its use of certain canons of interpretation suggest that the relevant investigation is what it would be reasonable to understand the speaker in order to communicate.

In fact, textualists often claim that what words mean is what a reasonable person wants to understand or convey through the speaker – thus confusing the meaning of words with reasonable inferences about communicative intent (e.g., Scalia and Garner 2012, 16, 56). Similarly, textualists often refer to the relevant investigation as an „objective legal intent,“ understood as what a reasonable person would have wanted from Parliament given the context. [29] In the preceding paragraph, I relied on the simplistic assumption that, while the interpretation of the statute is directed at the content of the statute, the soundness of a method of legal interpretation depends solely on whether it treats the determinants of the content of the statute as they actually do. According to this assumption, there is no gap between a legal theory and a theory of legal interpretation. If the correct legal theory is that the content of the law is determined, for example, by the semantic content of the relevant legal texts, then the best method of legal interpretation is to determine the semantic content of authoritative legal texts. The intentionalist approach to constitutional interpretation, which views the relevant aspect of the constitution as the intentions of the authors or ratifiers, flourished for some time in the second half of the 20th century (faded in the 1980s), but in recent decades originalists have focused on the original meaning (see Whittington 2013, 379-82; Kesavan and Paulsen, 2003, pp. 1134-48). Contemporary originalism tends to focus on „overriding public significance,“ by which originalists roughly mean how reasonable readers of the Constitution would have understood its meaning at the time of its ratification. See section 4.2 below. It should be noted that it is consistent with some versions of originalism that the correct application of constitutional norms may differ from the way the constitution was originally conceived and expected. In one case, the correct application of the Constitution changes over time due to changing circumstances.

The trade clause, for example, states that Congress has jurisdiction over „interstate commerce“ (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 3). If the relevant original aspect of the Constitution is the meaning of the words or the intention of the authors as to the rule of law to be adopted (for such intentions, see section 4.1), then changes in the economy of the country without modification of constitutional law may result in the fact that types of corporations that were not previously within the power of Congress over interstate commerce, I would like to ask the Commissioner whether he is aware that the Commission has not yet presented a proposal for a directive on environmental protection. (Greenberg & Litman, 1998). Through this technique, the law allows the individual to manage his or her private life and affairs as he or she wishes, as long as it is within the bounds of the law. Technology does not bind every member of society to its rules. It binds only those who want to be bound. For example, a person is not obliged to marry, but if such a person chooses to do so, he must do so within the legal framework. Thus, a person has the right to marry in accordance with marriage law, customary law or Islamic law.