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Title: The use of vague language in law and adjudication
Author: Endicott, Timothy A. O.
ISNI:       0000 0001 2432 688X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1997
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Vagueness in the language of the law leads to indeterminacies in some (not in all) of the requirements of the law. This thesis supports that 'indeterminacy claim', and explores its consequences for understanding law and adjudication. I elaborate the indeterminacy claim with a categorical claim that vagueness is ineliminable from law, and with a more tentative claim that indeterminacies in the application of vague language are not trivial or marginal. The indeterminacy claim is defended against legal theorists who argue that the law has other resources, besides the words that lawmakers use, which make it possible for judges to decide all cases consistently and according to law. Philosophers of language and of logic have sought a theory of the application of vague words that would solve the 'sorites paradox'. Such a solution might contradict the indeterminacy claim, either by showing that there are no cases in which the application of vague language is indeterminate, or by providing a model of reasoning with vague language that supports the 'other resources' arguments of legal theorists. I suggest reasons for resisting the urge to seek a solution, the chief being 'higher-order vagueness' and incommensurabilities in the application of many vague expressions. I propose a 'similarity model' of vagueness, in which a vague expression is viewed as applying to objects sufficiently similar to paradigms. The 'sufficiently' element in this model corresponds to a connection between the application of vague words and evaluative judgments. The 'paradigms' element is examined by assessing the role of paradigms in the theories of Herbert Hart and Ronald Dworkin. On the basis of the indeterminacy claim, the thesis argues that courts frequently cannot decide cases by giving effect to the requirements of the law, and that they cannot always decide like cases alike. A concluding chapter addresses implications for the ideal of the rule of law. It might seem that the rule of law is necessarily unattainable, to the extent that the requirements of the law are indeterminate. I propose an understanding of the ideal that rejects that conclusion, and that identifies the resolution of unresolved disputes as an important, independent duty of judges.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Law