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Analytic Philosophy in AmericaAnd Other Historical and Contemporary Essays$
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Scott Soames

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691160726

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691160726.001.0001

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Toward a Theory of Legal Interpretation

Toward a Theory of Legal Interpretation

(p.299) 14 Toward a Theory of Legal Interpretation
Analytic Philosophy in America

Scott Soames

Princeton University Press

This chapter is concerned with the content of legal norms governing the interpretation of legal texts by legally authoritative actors in a legal system. As such, a theory of legal interpretation is a theory of the content of the law, codified or uncodified, governing legally authorized interpreters. Thought of in this way, it is a nonnormative empirical theory related to, but distinct from, (a) empirical theories about what the mass of judges in a particular legal system actually do in the cases before them; (b) moral theories about what they morally should do in particular cases; and (c) politically normative theories about what the role of the judiciary should be in an ideal system. The most important question to be answered by such a theory is, what precisely is required of legally authoritative interpreters, how much and what kind of latitude are they allowed, and what factors are they to take into account in their interpretations?

Keywords:   legal norms, legal texts, analytic philosophy, legal interpretation, law, empirical theory, normative theory

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