Open Texture and the Possibility of Legal Interpretation

9 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2000

Date Written: April 2000


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 the 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.

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Lyons, David Barry, Open Texture and the Possibility of Legal Interpretation (April 2000). Available at SSRN: or

David Barry Lyons (Contact Author)

Boston University ( email )

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