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The Immorality of Textualism

20 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2005  

Andrei Marmor

Cornell University - Law School


In this short essay I argue that textualism, as a doctrine of statutory interpretation, is inherently deceptive and therefore immoral. Textualism is typically presented by its adherents as an interpretive practice that is motivated by respect for democracy and respect for the authority of the legislature. But in fact, textualism's preoccupation with ordinary meaning and literal application of statutes is motivated by constraining the legislature's ability to pursue broad regulatory policies. Authorities do not want to be understood literally. Authorities purport to govern, and governance requires cooperation in the spirit of its goals, not strict adherence to the letter of its directives.

Suggested Citation

Marmor, Andrei, The Immorality of Textualism. Loyola Law Review, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Andrei Marmor (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States


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