Statutory Interpretation as Argumentation

In Colin Aitken, Amalia Amaya, Kevin D. Ashley, Carla Bagnoli, Giorgio Bongiovanni, Bartosz Brożek, Cristiano Castelfranchi, Samuele Chilovi, Marcello Di Bello, Jaap Hage, Kenneth Einar Himma, Lewis A. Kornhauser, Emiliano Lorini, Fabrizio Macagno, Andrei Marmor, J. J. Moreso, Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco, Antonino Rotolo, Giovanni Sartor, Burkhard Schafer, Chiara Valentini, Bart Verheij, Douglas Walton & Wojciech Załuski (eds.), Handbook of Legal Reasoning and Argumentation. Cambridge University Press. pp. 519-560 (2011)
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This chapter proposes a dialectical approach to legal interpretation, consisting of three dimensions: a formalization of the canons of interpretation in terms of argumentation schemes; a dialectical classification of interpretive schemes; and a logical and computational model for comparing the arguments pro and contra an interpretation. The traditional interpretive maxims or canons used in both common and civil law are translated into defeasible patterns of arguments, which can be evaluated through sets of corresponding critical questions. These interpretive argumentation schemes are classified in general categories and a distinction is drawn between schemes supporting and rebutting an interpretation. This framework allows conceiving statutory interpretation as a dialectical procedure consisting in weighing arguments pro and contra an interpretation. This procedure is formalized and represented computationally through tools from formal argumentation systems.

Author Profiles

Fabrizio Macagno
Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Douglas Walton
Last affiliation: University of Windsor


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