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The Poverty of Interpretive Univeralism: Toward the Reconstruction of Legal Theory

56 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2006  

Dennis Patterson

European University Institute; Rutgers University School of Law, Camden; Swansea University School of Law; European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW)

Abstract

Over the past few decades, interpretivism, the notion that the only understanding of a phenomenon is that which is subject to an individual's own unique perception, has become prevalent in several major disciplines, law included. In this paper, I argue that this notion is severely misguided. First, I contend that Ronald Dworkin and Stanley Fish, while purportedly at odds with each other, are in fact united in their views at the basest of levels. The unitary point is that for both, understanding law is equivalent to interpreting law. The relativistic regress that occurs notwithstanding, the work of Wittgenstein cogently asserts that for understanding to occur, there must be some initial meaning given to a phenomenon. I argue that interpretivism ignores this theory. Understanding and interpreting must be distinct activities to preserve the relationship of language to legal justification and to the world.

Suggested Citation

Patterson, Dennis, The Poverty of Interpretive Univeralism: Toward the Reconstruction of Legal Theory. Texas Law Review, Vol. 72, 1993. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=950110

Dennis Patterson (Contact Author)

European University Institute ( email )

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Rutgers University School of Law, Camden ( email )

Camden, NJ 08102-1203
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Swansea University School of Law

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European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

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