Varieties of Vagueness in the Law
USC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-8
25 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2012 Last revised: 19 Jul 2013
Date Written: July 18, 2013
The main purpose of this essay is to articulate the different types of vagueness, and related linguistic indeterminacies, that we find in statutory language and to explain their different rationales. I argue that the various normative considerations involved in employing vague terms in legislation depend on the kind of vagueness in question. I show that while some cases of vagueness in law are concerned with fairly standard problems of borderline cases, other are not. I also argue that semantic vagueness can be distinguished from conversational vagueness, which we also find in law, and that vagueness in law should be clearly distinguished from cases of ambiguity and polysemy.
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