Meaning and Belief in Constitutional Interpretation

USC Legal Studies Research Papers Series No. 13-4

23 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2013 Last revised: 19 Jul 2013

See all articles by Andrei Marmor

Andrei Marmor

Cornell University - Law School

Date Written: June 30, 2013


The distinction between an evaluative concept and its possible conceptions plays a prominent role in debates about constitutional interpretation. The main purpose of the paper is to raise some doubts about the linguistic assumptions that are employed in this debate, arguing that the semantic considerations underlying the concept versus conceptions distinction are much more problematic and inconclusive than generally assumed. The ways in which concepts are used in a speech act crucially depend on pragmatic determinants, and those, in turn, depend on the nature of the conversation. The paper shows that the debate about constitutional interpretation is better seen as a moral debate about the nature of the conversation that constitutional regimes should be taken to establish. The linguistic considerations in play depend on this moral issue; by themselves, they do not support any particular interpretative stance.

Suggested Citation

Marmor, Andrei, Meaning and Belief in Constitutional Interpretation (June 30, 2013). USC Legal Studies Research Papers Series No. 13-4. Available at SSRN:

Andrei Marmor (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States


Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics