Assessment Sensitivity in Legal Discourse
Forthcoming in Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (2017) Special issue on Language in the Law, eds. Nicholas Allott and Ben Shaer
21 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 2, 2017
We explain three phenomena in legal discourse in terms of MacFarlane’s assessment-sensitive semantics: incompatible applications of law, assessments of statements about what is legally the case, and retrospective overruling. The claim is that assessment sensitivity fits in with the view, shared by many legal theorists at least with respect to hard cases, that the final adjudicator’s interpretation of legal sources is constitutive of the applied norm. We argue that there are strong analogies between certain kinds of statements in legal discourse as understood in light of that view and discourse about matters of taste and future contingents. Thus, if assessment-sensitive semantics provides a compelling account of discourse about matters of taste and future contingents, then it likewise provides a compelling account of those statements in legal discourse.
Keywords: semantics, law, assessment sensitivity, contextualism, minimalism
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