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Title: Explaining meaning : towards a minimalist account of legal interpretation
Author: Barradas de Freitas, Raquel
ISNI:       0000 0004 5354 1628
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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To interpret is to seek understanding. This formulation hides as much as it reveals and I propose to unpack it. I argue that interpreting is only a part of what legal theorists and practitioners do. In Part I, I attempt an ‘in vitro’ analysis and present the bare concept of interpretation: interpretation is an activity that needs an object; interpreting is reasoning about meaning when there is a possibility of mistake about that meaning. Part II focuses on two domains of interpretation: musical performance and adjudication. I rely on Joseph Raz’s account of interpretation as explanation or display and identify the former domain as a paradigm of display and the latter as a paradigm of explanation. Both are examples of interpretation for others and involve a claim to theoretical authority on the part of interpreters. But, unlike musicians- who interpret only works of music- judges interpret a great variety of objects. Musical interpretation is identified by its object, whereas legal interpretation is not. Legal interpretation is explanation of legal meaning. I then discuss the tenets of the minimalist view of legal interpretation: (i) legal rules are not interpretable and legal texts are not primary objects of legal interpretation; (ii) there is a difference between interpretative authority (a form of theoretical authority) and legal authority (a form of practical authority) and interpretative conclusions can be theoretically authoritative without being exclusionary reasons for action; (iii) Interpreting and adjudicating are different activities. Interpretation explains, adjudication resolves. Legal interpreters do not produce legal rules: they are required to be guided by them.
Supervisor: Gardner, John Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ethics and philosophy of law ; Legal philosophy ; Interpretation ; legal meaning ; legal reasoning ; adjudication ; practical authority ; theoretical authority ; reasons for action ; reasons for belief