Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephen Neale

Committee Members

Noël Carroll

Michael Devitt

Jeremy Waldron

Subject Categories

Law and Philosophy | Philosophy of Language


intention, interpretation, legal interpretation


I provide a Gricean theory of communication to constitutively explain the basis of duties, immunities, powers, privileges, and rights – the legal profile– possessed by actors within a legal system in virtue of their legally authoritative communicative intentions. This allows me to clearly speak to what is communicated between legal agents and how to interpret – how to figure out – that content, using available evidence. That account is then applied to statutory interpretation and contract law. Using a notion I call creative interpretation, which I develop by analogy to some species of literary and musical interpretation, I discuss how the law, using new conceptual resources, creates new authoritative interpretations to flesh out previously epistemically or metaphysically indeterminate content. This study allows us to go, in a sense to be described, beyond what legal actors actually communicated via some text, while carefully maintaining an epistemically objective inquiry. I apply that study to the idea of reasonable doubt in criminal law and that of actual malice in defamation law. Creative interpretation can also be used to address vague or borderline cases.

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