What the Epistemic Account of Vagueness Means for Legal Interpretation

29 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2016

Date Written: September 24, 2015

Abstract

This paper explores what the epistemic account of vagueness ("epistemicism") means for theories of legal interpretation. The thesis of epistemicism is that vague statements are true or false even though it is impossible to know which. I argue that if epistemicism is accepted within the domain of the law, then the following three conditions must be satisfied: (1) Interpretative reasoning within the law must adhere to the principle of bivalence and the law of excluded middle, (2) interpretative reasoning within the law must construe vague statements as an epistemic phenomenon, and (3) epistemicism must be expanded to include normative considerations in order to account for legal theories that are consistent with the first two conditions. The first two conditions are internal to a particular theory of legal interpretation, while the third condition is external to a particular theory of legal interpretation. My conclusion shows that there are legal theories that are internally consistent with the fundamental features of epistemicism. However, within the domain of law — and specifically in the case of legal theories that are internally consistent with epistemicism — I show that vagueness cannot be explained simply by our ignorance of the meaning and use of vague expressions. Rather, epistemicism must also account for ignorance of the requisite normative considerations in legal theories with which it is otherwise consistent.

Keywords: vagueness, epistemicism, interpretivism, naturalism

Suggested Citation

Hunt, Luke William, What the Epistemic Account of Vagueness Means for Legal Interpretation (September 24, 2015). Law and Philosophy, Vol. 35, No. 1, 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2739413

Luke William Hunt (Contact Author)

University of Alabama ( email )

College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Philosophy
Tuscaloosa, AL
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
94
Abstract Views
344
rank
339,400
PlumX Metrics