A New Interpretivist Metasemantics for Fundamental Legal Disagreements
30 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2020 Last revised: 8 Jul 2020
Date Written: May 10, 2020
What does it take for lawyers and others to think or talk about a same legal topic – e.g. defamation, culpability? We argue that people are able to think or talk about a same topic not when they possess a matching substantive understanding of the topic, as the traditional metasemantics says, but instead when their thoughts or utterances are related to each other in certain ways. And what determines the content of thoughts and utterances is what would best serve the core purposes of the representational practice within which the topic is located. In thus favoring a “relational model” in metasemantics, we share Ronald Dworkin’s goal of explaining fundamental legal disagreements, and also his reliance on constructive interpretation. But what we delineate is a far more general and explanatorily resourceful metasemantics than what Dworkin articulated, which also bypasses some controversial implications for the nature of law that Dworkin alleged.
Keywords: theoretical disagreements, metasemantics, Ronald Dworkin, legal positivism, natural law, constructive interpretation
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