Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

THEORIES OF VAGUENESS AND THEORIES OF LAW

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 April 2019

Alex Silk
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham

Abstract

It is common to think that what theory of linguistic vagueness is correct has implications for debates in philosophy of law. I disagree. I argue that the implications of particular theories of vagueness on substantive issues of legal theory and practice are less far-reaching than often thought. I focus on four putative implications discussed in the literature concerning (i) the value of vagueness in the law, (ii) the possibility and value of legal indeterminacy, (iii) the possibility of the rule of law, and (iv) strong discretion. I conclude with some methodological remarks. Delineating questions about conventional meaning, legal content determination, and norms of legal interpretation and judicial practice can motivate clearer answers and a more refined understanding of the space of overall theories of vagueness, interpretation, and law.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

Footnotes

*

Thanks to the Edinburgh Legal Theory Seminar for discussion, and to two anonymous referees for comments. This research has benefited from the support of an AHRC Early Career Research Grant and a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship.

References

Asgeirsson, Hrafn, Vagueness and Power Delegation in Law: A Reply to Sorensen, in Current Legal Issues: Law and Language 344355 (Freeman, Michael & Smith, Fiona eds., 2013).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Asgeirsson, Hrafn, On the Instrumental Value of Vagueness in the Law, 125 Ethics 425 (2015).Google Scholar
Barnes, Elizabeth, Ontic Vagueness, 44 Noûs 601 (2010).Google Scholar
Bix, Brian H., A Dictionary of Legal Theory (2004).Google Scholar
Dworkin, Ronald, Taking Rights Seriously (1977).Google Scholar
Dworkin, Ronald, A Matter of Principle (1985).Google Scholar
Dworkin, Ronald, On Gaps in the Law, in Controversies About Law's Ontology 8490 (Amselek, Paul & MacCormick, Neil eds., 1991).Google Scholar
Endicott, Timothy, Vagueness and Legal Theory, 3 Legal Theory 37 (1997).Google Scholar
Endicott, Timothy, Vagueness in Law (2000).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Endicott, Timothy, Vagueness and Law, in Vagueness: A Guide 171191 (Ronzitti, Guiseppina ed., 2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Endicott, Timothy, The Value of Vagueness, in Philosophical Foundations of Language in the Law 1430 (Marmor, Andrei & Soames, Scott eds., 2011).Google Scholar
Endicott, Timothy, Law and Language, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Zalta, Edward N. ed., 2016), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2016/entries/law-language/.Google Scholar
Forrester, James William, Why You Should: The Pragmatics of Dontic Speech (1989).Google Scholar
Green, Leslie, Legal Positivism, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Zalta, Edward N. ed., 2018), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2018/entries/legal-positivism/.Google Scholar
H.L.A. Hart, The Concept of Law (2d ed. 1961/1994).Google Scholar
Hawthorne, John, Epistemicism and Semantic Plasticity, in Metaphysical Essays 185210 (2006).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heim, Irene & Kratzer, Angelika, Semantics in Generative Grammar (1998).Google Scholar
Horgan, Terence, Robust Vagueness and the Forced-March Sorites Paradox, 8 Phil. Persp. 159 (1994).Google Scholar
Hyde, Dominic & Raffman, Diana, Sorites Paradox, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Zalta, Edward N. ed., 2018), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2018/entries/sorites-paradox/.Google Scholar
Jónsson, Ólafur Páll, Vagueness, Interpretation, and the Law, 15 Legal Theory 193 (2009).Google Scholar
Kaplan, David, Demonstratives, in Themes from Kaplan 481563 (Almog, Joseph, Perry, John & Wettstein, Howard eds., 1989).Google Scholar
Keefe, Rosanna, Theories of Vagueness (2000).Google Scholar
Vagueness and Law: Philosophical and Legal Perspectives (Keil, Geert & Poscher, Ralf eds., 2016).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kelsen, Hans, General Theory of Norms (1991).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Klein, Ewan, A Semantics for Positive and Comparative Adjectives, 4 Ling. & Phil. 1 (1980).Google Scholar
Lewis, David, Languages and Language, in Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science 335 (Gunderson, Keith ed., 1975).Google Scholar
Lyons, David, The Concept of Law (Second Edition) by H.L.A. Hart, 111 Law Q. Rev. 519 (1995).Google Scholar
Andrei Marmor, The Language of Law (2014).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marcin Morzycki, Modification (2015).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Plunkett, David & Shapiro, Scott, Law, Morality, and Everything Else: General Jurisprudence as a Branch of Metanormative Inquiry, 128 Ethics 37 (2017).Google Scholar
Poscher, Ralf, Ambiguity and Vagueness in Legal Interpretation, in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law 128144 (Tiersma, Peter M. & Solan, Lawrence M. eds., 2012).Google Scholar
Raffman, Diana, Vagueness and Context Relativity, 81 Phil. Stud. 175 (1996).Google Scholar
Raffman, Diana, Unruly Words (2014).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Railton, Peter, We'll See You in Court!’: The Rule of Law as an Explanatory and Normative Kind, in Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence 122 (Plunkett, David, Shapiro, Scott J. & Toh, Kevin eds., 2019).Google Scholar
Raz, Joseph, The Rule of Law and Its Virtue, in The Authority of Law 210229 (1979/2009).Google Scholar
Sassoon, Galit, Vagueness, Gradability and Typicality: The Interpretation of Adjectives and Nouns (2013).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sauerland, Uli & Stateva, Penka, Two Types of Vagueness, in Vagueness and Language Use 121145 (Égré, Paul & Klinedinst, Nathan eds., 2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schiffer, Stephen, A Little Help from Your Friends?, 7 Legal Theory 421 (2001).Google Scholar
Schiffer, Stephen, Philosophical and Jurisprudential Issues of Vagueness, in Vagueness and Law: Philosophical and Legal Perspectives 2348 (Keil, Geert & Poscher, Ralf eds., 2016).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shapiro, Scott J., The ‘Hart-Dworkin’ Debate: A Short Guide for the Perplexed, in Ronald Dworkin 2255 (Ripstein, Arthur ed., 2007).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shapiro, Stewart, Vagueness in Context (2006).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Silk, Alex, Evaluational Adjectives (2015) (unpublished manuscript, University of Birmingham), https://goo.gl/Ocvuo7.Google Scholar
Silk, Alex, Discourse Contextualism: A Framework for Contextualist Semantics and Pragmatics (2016).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Silk, Alex, Normativity in Language and Law, in Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence 287313 (Plunkett, David, Shapiro, Scott J. & Toh, Kevin eds., 2019).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Silk, Alex, Comparative Vagueness (2018) (unpublished manuscript, University of Birmingham), https://goo.gl/2dyC8L.Google Scholar
Soames, Scott, Understanding Truth (1999).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Soames, Scott, Interpreting Legal Texts: What Is, and What Is Not, Special About the Law, in Philosophical Essays, Vol. 1 403423 (2009).Google Scholar
Soames, Scott, What Vagueness and Inconsistency Tell Us About Interpretation, in Philosophical Foundations of Language in the Law 3157 (Marmor, Andrei & Soames, Scott eds., 2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Soames, Scott, Vagueness and the Law, in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Law 95108 (Marmor, Andrei ed., 2012).Google Scholar
Soames, Scott, Toward a Theory of Legal Interpretation, in Analytic Philosophy in America 299319 (2014).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sorensen, Roy, Blindspots (1988).Google Scholar
Sorensen, Roy, Vagueness Has No Function in Law, 7 Legal Theory 387 (2001).Google Scholar
Williamson, Timothy, Vagueness (1994).Google Scholar

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 129
Total number of PDF views: 372 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 23rd April 2019 - 19th January 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Hostname: page-component-77fc7d77f9-qmqs2 Total loading time: 0.32 Render date: 2021-01-19T06:50:27.841Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags last update: Tue Jan 19 2021 06:05:18 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time) Feature Flags: { "metrics": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "peerReview": true, "crossMark": true, "comments": true, "relatedCommentaries": true, "subject": true, "clr": true, "languageSwitch": true, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

THEORIES OF VAGUENESS AND THEORIES OF LAW
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

THEORIES OF VAGUENESS AND THEORIES OF LAW
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

THEORIES OF VAGUENESS AND THEORIES OF LAW
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *