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Order in Multiplicity: Aristotle on Text, Context and the Rule of Law

Maureen B. Cavanaugh

Pennsylvania State University - The Dickinson School of Law

North Carolina Law Review

Justice Scalia, among others, has made the question of textual interpretation tantamount to a referendum on whether we are a government that is governed by the 'rule of law' or the 'rule of men'. Interestingly modern reliance on Aristotle, while frequent, also turns out to be selective. This Article examines what Aristotle's theories of interpretation may contribute to a resolution of current problems of statutory interpretation, especially his analysis of different (non-univocal) uses of the same word and conclusion that homonyms are not all random. Associated homonyms allow us to understand related ideas. Recent Aristotelian scholarship permits us to apply Aristotle to the central question of how to interpret a text. Following an explication of Aristotelian methodology, this Article then considers Gregory, an early tax case articulating a non-literal statutory interpretation of 'reorganization' as a paradigm. This methodology could be applied equally to any number of other areas of the law involving issues of statutory interpretation. This Article demonstrates that Aristotle helps us avoid unwarranted assumptions of univocity while providing a positive mechanism for finding order in multiplicity.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 54

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Date posted: November 8, 2000  

Suggested Citation

Cavanaugh, Maureen B., Order in Multiplicity: Aristotle on Text, Context and the Rule of Law. North Carolina Law Review. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=246817 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.246817

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Maureen B. Cavanaugh (deceased) (Contact Author)
Pennsylvania State University - The Dickinson School of Law
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