Vagueness and Legal Theory

Legal Theory 3 (1):37-63 (1997)
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Abstract

The use of vague language in law has important implications for legal theory. Legal philosophers have occasionally grappled with those implications, but they have not come to grips with the characteristic phenomenon of vagueness: the sorites paradox. I discuss the paradox, and claim that it poses problems for some legal theorists (David Lyons, Hans Kelsen, and, especially, Ronald Dworkin). I propose that a good account of vagueness will have three consequences for legal theory: (i) Theories that deny that vagueness in formulations of the law leads to discretion in adjudication (including Dworkin's) cannot accommodate “higher-order” vagueness, (ii) A legal theory should accept that the law is partly indeterminate when it can be stated in vague language, (iii) However, the traditional formulation of the indeterminacy claim, that a vague statement is “neither true nor false” in a borderline case, is misconceived and should be abandoned.

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Timothy Endicott
Oxford University

Citations of this work

Theories of vagueness and theories of law.Alex Silk - 2019 - Legal Theory 25 (2):132-152.

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References found in this work

Vagueness, truth and logic.Kit Fine - 1975 - Synthese 30 (3-4):265-300.
Objectivity and Truth: You’d Better Believe it.Ronald Dworkin - 1996 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 25 (2):87-139.
Sorites paradoxes and the semantics of vagueness.Michael Tye - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8:189-206.
Is higher order vagueness coherent?Crispin Wright - 1992 - Analysis 52 (3):129-139.
Is there higher-order vagueness?Mark Sainsbury - 1991 - Philosophical Quarterly 41 (163):167-182.

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