Kent Greenawalt

in Legal Interpretation

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199756131
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199855292 | DOI:

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The law of contracts is a major part of modern private law, and the law's treatment of contracts is the subject of extensive scholarly attention in the United States. This chapter explores questions about contract interpretation similar to those concerning wills. These include: How far should courts be guided by objective meaning, how far by the subjective intent of the parties? How general or contextual should objective meaning be taken to be? When should courts “write in” terms that parties have failed to supply—a power that is quite limited for wills—and how should they go about that task? If various contractual provisions point in different directions, should a court give each its apparent meaning, even at the cost of an unwieldy totality, or bend the language of some terms to make the whole contract work well? What evidences of meaning should courts allow?

Keywords: contract law; private law; legal interpretation; objective meaning

Chapter.  23776 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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