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29 Law & Phil. 1 (2010)

handle is hein.journals/lwphil29 and id is 1 raw text is: Law and Philosophy (2010) 29:1-29                © Springer 2009
DOI 10.1007/s10982-009-9048-z
(Accepted 17 March 2009)
Legislation is sometimes vague or ambiguous. For this reason -
and perhaps for others - it is often claimed that there is
no single objective and determinate way to apply legislation
to particular cases or issues. This indeterminacy creates
obvious problems for those required to interpret legislation:
they must decide whether to apply legislation in cases of inde-
terminacy, and if they decide to apply it, there may be more
than one way to do so.
There are a number of different views about the methods
interpreters should use, but a view commonly called 'inten-
tionalism' has traditionally been the most influential.1 Inten-
tionalism can be described as the view that a piece of legislation
should be interpreted in accordance with the intentions of the
* I would like to thank Daniel Farrell and Donald Hubin for discussions
and advice on earlier drafts on this paper. I would also like to thank the
anonymous referee for Law and Philosophy for a number of helpful
1 John F. Manning claims that intentionalism was the orthodoxy
amongst federal judges for much of the last century, though textualism has
been increasingly influential recently ('Textualism and Legislative Intent',
Virginia Law Review 91 (2005): 419-450). Amongst academics, intention-
alism may not have been the orthodoxy, but it has certainly had adherents -
for a recent defense, see Solan, Lawrence M., 'Private Language, Public
Laws: The Central Role of Legislative Intent in Statutory Interpretation',
Georgetown Law Journal 93 (2005): 427-486. I share with Solan a general
focus on the intentions of some members of legislatures only, although I
disagree with Solan about the justification for that focus.

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