Interpretation and Semantics

Roger A. Shiner

in Norm and Nature

Published in print September 1992 | ISBN: 9780198257196
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681721 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Law Series

Interpretation and Semantics

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Sophisticated positivism replaced a realist account of the semantics for propositions of law with an anti-realist account, and also took what has been called the interpretative turn. It made these moves because of a sense that simple positivism made too attractive a formalist approach to legal language. Simple positivism did not forbid the court to ‘go beyond’ settled law: rather, simple positivism provided no way of constraining such vagaries by any legal standards. Sophisticated positivism saw anti-realism and the interpretative turn as underwriting the permission to ‘go beyond’ settled law while remaining bound by constraints internal to the judicial enterprise. This chapter investigates the viability of such a theoretical position. It shows that the price to be paid for escaping a simple positivistic view of interpretation and semantics in relation to law is one that can be paid only in anti-positivistic currency.

Keywords: sophisticated positivism; semantic realism; legal theory; simple positivism; interpretation; law

Chapter.  12842 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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