Legal text as a description of a possible world

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Abstract
In this paper I outline a comprehensive theory of legal interpretation based on an assumption that legal text, understood as the aggregate of texts of all legal acts in force at a particular time and place, describes one rational and coherent possible world. The picture of this possible world is decoded from the text by interpreters and serves as a holistic model to which the real world is adjusted when the law is applied. From the above premise I will limit myself to drawing two conclusions for how legal interpretation should be carried out. First, I argue that the possible world described by the legal text has to be ‘accessible’ from the real world, i.e. it has to be feasible to transform the actual world into the described one. Were it otherwise, the possible world could not serve as a model for adjustment. The accessibility requirement imposes obligations on the interpreters to secure the rationality of the possible world decoded from the text, amongst other to secure that the description of this world is not contradictory and – as a consequence – the law of excluded middle is obeyed in the possible world described by the legal text. Secondly, I argue for the inevitability of interpretative discretion arising from the requirement to decode a sufficiently ‘saturated’ picture of the possible world., i.e. possessing enough properties to resemble the actual world. As texts have a limited number of sentences and worlds have an unlimited number of properties, interpreters have to supplement the picture of a possible world to achieve its coherence. This involves the inclusion of some additional, non-predetermined features that integrate with the properties of the world predefined by the legal text. This process of saturation consists of filling in so-called ‘places of indeterminacy’ (Roman Ingarden) with content implicated by other features of the possible world. I also argue that the discretion resulting from the necessity of filling in the places of indeterminacy is justified by the requirement of fulfilling the intention of the lawmaker to make the possible world described by the legal text real. The theory presented here is based on contemporary theories of discourse representation and so-called ‘text-world theory’ by J. Gavins. Phenomenalism and causal (historical) theories of reference provide its philosophical background.
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Archival date: 2013-03-18
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2013-03-18

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