Reading to Understand Each Other

Laurence Claus

in Law’s Evolution and Human Understanding

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199735099
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950478 | DOI:
Reading to Understand Each Other

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We read the words that are our community's law not because we want to understand lawgivers, but because we want to understand each other. When the significance of communication for us comes from the fact that the communication self-constitutes community custom, discovering likely “reader response” is our reason for reading. Law's value to us depends on its words helping us share understanding across a community and over time. When understanding varies with erudition of the reader, we achieve shared understanding through the services of the legal profession. Including abstract moral ideas in a written constitution has little effect on how power is exercised unless power is shared, but if power is shared, abstract moral language shifts more power to those who resolve disputes about how power is exercised.

Keywords: reader response; shared understanding; public meaning; lawgiver intention; interpretation; U.S. Constitution; U.S. Supreme Court

Chapter.  7683 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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