Law's Meaning

Osgoode Hall Law Journal 34:553-81 (1996)
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It is often thought that the meaning of a legal provision must reside in the minds of its authors or its interpreters, or a combination of the two. Indeed, the point may seem so obvious that it scarcely needs any justification. Is there any sense, then, in the claim sometimes made by judges that a law has a meaning of its own, one that is distinct from the intentions of authors and interpreters alike? At first sight, the claim appears extravagant and self-serving. However, there is more to it than meets the eye. Drawing on an example from the world of games, this essay argues that the law makes up a “participatory order of meaning,” an autonomous order to which legal drafters and interpreters bend their minds as they create particular patterns of meaning. Ultimately, a legal order should be understood as a concrete instance of a transcendent order of justice and basic values, which in some sense lies both within and beyond the laws of a particular time and place.
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Le philosophe et la sociologie.Merleau-Ponty, Maurice

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