Sources and Interpretation Theories: An Interdependent Relationship
The Oxford Handbook on the Sources of International Law (Jean d'Aspremont & Samantha Besson, eds., Oxford University Press, 2016 Forthcoming)
20 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2016 Last revised: 8 Oct 2016
Date Written: September 8, 2016
What is the relationship between international law’s sources and its theories of interpretation? Challenging assumptions that the two concepts are, at best, casual acquaintances, this chapter reveals and explores a much deeper, interdependent relationship. Sources set the nature and scope of international legal interpretation by delineating its appropriate objects. Interpretation, meanwhile, operates existentially to identify what constitutes the sources of international law in the first place. The two concepts thus appear mutually constitutive across a range of doctrines, theories and authorities. Understanding these ties may offer a more nuanced image of the current international legal order. At the same time, they highlight future instrumental opportunities where efforts to change one concept might become viable via changes to the other. This chapter concludes with calls for further research on whether and how such changes might occur and asks if international lawyers should embrace (or resist) such a mutually constitutive relationship.
Keywords: sources of international law, treaties, interpretation, Article 38, Vienna Convention, existential interpretation, law ascertainment, customary international law, general principles of internationa law
JEL Classification: K00, K33, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation