Philosophy, Law and Language

Christopher Hutton

in Language, Meaning and the Law

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780748633500
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671489 | DOI:
Philosophy, Law and Language

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This chapter reviews approaches taken by political philosophers concerned with the nature of law, with language seen as one of the key elements in the formation of political collectivities ruled by law. However language as law's medium has also been seen as a potential source of instability and uncertainty, and legal theorists and political philosophers have differed widely in their assessment of the importance and role of language in law. If law is a kind of market of exchange or reflects a social contract between citizens and the sovereign, and language is the medium for the recording of law and for its explication, then the terms of that contract, and language in general, become the primary medium through which social order is created and maintained. Questions about definition, rules, and coherence are central to anxieties about legal language. This chapter reviews the positions of legal theorists and philosophers, notably Bentham, Wittgenstein, Austin, and Grice, showing how that the linguistic turn in philosophy used law as a way of understanding everyday language.

Keywords: Social order; Market; Contract; Definition; Linguistic turn; Rules; Jeremy Bentham; Ludwig Wittgenstein; J.L. Austin; Paul Grice

Chapter.  6943 words. 

Subjects: Language Teaching and Learning

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