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Originalism and the Sense-Reference Distinction

Christopher R. Green

University of Mississippi - School of Law

St. Louis University Law Journal, Vol. 50, p. 555, 2006

I deploy the sense-reference distinction and its kin from the philosophy of language to answer the question what in constitutional interpretation should, and should not, be able to change after founders adopt a constitutional provision. I suggest that a constitutional expression's reference, but not its sense, can change. Interpreters should thus give founders' assessments of reference only Skidmore-level deference. From this position, I criticize the theories of constitutional interpretation offered by Raoul Berger, Jed Rubenfeld, and Richard Fallon, and apply the theory to whether the Fourteenth Amendment forbids racial segregation in public schools.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 74

Keywords: originalism, constitutional interpretation, philosophy of language, Frege, Mill, Carnap, sense-reference distinction, intension-extension distinction, connotation-denotation distinction, Brown v. Board of Education, Jed Rubenfeld, Richard Fallon, Raoul Berger, Michael McConnell

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Date posted: September 12, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Green, Christopher R., Originalism and the Sense-Reference Distinction. St. Louis University Law Journal, Vol. 50, p. 555, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=798466

Contact Information

Christopher R. Green (Contact Author)
University of Mississippi - School of Law ( email )
Lamar Law Center
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677
United States
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