Chapter

<i>Linguistic Indeterminacy</i>

TIMOTHY A. O. ENDICOTT

in Vagueness in Law

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780198268406
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191714795 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198268406.003.0002
Linguistic Indeterminacy

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This chapter introduces the notion of indeterminacy: the law is indeterminate when there is no single right answer to a question of law, or to a question of the application of the law to the facts of a case. It rejects the incoherent notion that the application of language is radically indeterminate, stressing the point that the application of vague language is indeterminate in some cases but not in all cases. It is possible to know that the linguistic formulation of a legal rule applies to the facts of some cases, but that mundane knowledge does not tell a judge what to do. Knowing whether the case fits the formulation of a rule does not even tell the judge what the law requires. The judge also needs to know whether the law requires that the rule be applied. Linguistic determinacy should not mislead judges into thinking that it will even be possible to make a just decision in every case.

Keywords: vagueness; legal language; legal theory; indeterminacy; context; deconstruction; interpretive orthodoxy

Chapter.  11685 words. 

Subjects: Civil Law

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