Objects of Interpretation

Constitutional Commentary, Forthcoming

Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 46/2016

19 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2016 Last revised: 3 Aug 2016

See all articles by Richard Ekins

Richard Ekins

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: June 22, 2016


This paper argues that the central object of constitutional interpretation is the Constitution, which is an intentional lawmaking act rather than a text floating free in the world, and that the point of such interpretation is primarily to understand the meaning that those who made the Constitution intended to convey by promulgating the text in question. The paper develops these claims by way of a critique of Cass Sunstein’s recent argument that there is nothing that interpretation just is, contending that he misunderstands the way that intention works in language use in general and that the alternatives to intentionalism that he outlines each fail. The radical interpretive choice for which he argues is ruled out by the nature of the Constitution. The final part of the paper considers the various ways in which one might understand the Constitution as an object requiring interpretation and outlines the significance that this understanding has for interpretive practice.

Keywords: constitutional interpretation, constitutional law, originalism, intended meaning, interpretive choice

Suggested Citation

Ekins, Richard, Objects of Interpretation (June 22, 2016). Constitutional Commentary, Forthcoming; Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 46/2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2809914 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2809914

Richard Ekins (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St Giles
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3JP
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.ox.ac.uk/profile/richard.ekins

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