Revisiting the Contribution of Literal Meaning to Legal Meaning.
Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 30 (2).
Many theorists take the view that literal meaning can be one of a
number of factors to be weighed in reaching a legal interpretation. Still others
regard literal meaning as having the potential to legally justify a particular outcome.
Building on the scholarly response to HLA Hart’s famous ‘vehicles in the park’
hypothetical, this article presents a formal argument that literal meaning cannot be
decisive of what’s legally correct, one which, unusually, makes no appeal to
controversial theories within philosophy of language or literary criticism. If the
argument is sound, it follows that an enactment’s literal meaning neither weighs in
the determination of correct legal outcomes nor permits the application of a
sequencing model, ie a non-monotonic logic, to its interpretation. These
implications are considerably more controversial within contemporary legal
theory than the idea that a statute’s literal meaning is not necessarily its legal
meaning. Yet we see that, given an intuitive notion of legal truth, they follow from
||Literal Meaning; Legal Meaning;
||Faculty of Social Sciences > Law
||11 Jan 2012 09:26
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||Oxford Journal of Legal Studies
||Oxford University Press
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