The Functionality of Conceptual Terms in International Law and International Legal Discourse
32 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2013
Date Written: August 5, 2013
Investigating the meaning of conceptual terms is an important task for international legal scholars. Traditionally, the meaning of conceptual terms has been analyzed by reference to what those terms describe, namely a relationship between, on the one hand, the particular properties identifying a particular phenomenon or state of affairs as belonging to the extension of a concept, and on the other hand, the legally relevant inferences ensuing from the categorization. While this theory works reasonably well as long as studies are confined to the meaning of conceptual terms in law, it is ill-suited for any similar study of international legal discourse. In the search for workable alternatives, this essay adopts a different approach. It equates the meaning of a conceptual term with its functionality, i.e. with what the uttering of a conceptual term potentially does to the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour of participants in international legal discourse. The essay justifies this approach partly by resort to examples illustrating some of the many functionalities of conceptual terms in international legal discourse. Partly, justification is given by resort to arguments indicating the usefulness of functionality analysis, especially for the critical assessment of international legal discourse and for the explanation of its significance.
Keywords: international law, international legal discourse, conceptual term, concept, pragmatics
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