The Meaning of Law

  • Izabela Skoczeń
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 127)


In the present chapter, I begin with an outline of the theory of meaning provided by Paul Grice. This is an inherently internalist theory, which means that meaning is determined by the speaker’s intention. I show that legal language needs an externalist theory of meaning. Thus, I argue that while the internalist may have a point in explaining what is going on in everyday linguistic exchanges, the externalist is in a better position to give a coherent account of legal language. In other words, I postulate an internalist theory of everyday language and an externalist theory of legal parlance. I also argue that the Gricean theory of implicatures can be separated from his theory of meaning.


  1. Arrow KJ (1978) Social choice and individual values, 2nd edn, 9. printing. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  2. Chalmers DJ (1997) The conscious mind: in search of a fundamental theory, 1. issued as an Oxford University Press paperback. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Ekins R (2012) The nature of legislative intent, 1st edn. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Gauker C (2008) Zero tolerance for pragmatics. Synthese 165:359–371. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gizbert-Studnicki T (1975) O nieważnych czynnościach prawnych w świetle koncepcji czynności konwencjonalnych [Invalid legal acts in light of the concept of conventional acts]. pp 70–82Google Scholar
  6. Gizbert-Studnicki T (2012) Oryginalizm i living constitutionalism a koncepcja państwa prawnego [Originalism, living-constitutionalism and the concept of the rule of law]. In: Kardas P, Wróbel W, Sroka T (eds) Państwo prawa i prawo karne: Księga jubileuszowa Profesora Andrzeja Zolla. Wolters Kluwer, WarszawaGoogle Scholar
  7. Goldsworthy J (2005) Moderate versus strong intentionalism: Knapp and Michaels revisited. 42:669Google Scholar
  8. Grice P (1975) Logic and conversation. In: Cole P, Morgan J (eds) Syntax and semantics. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Grice HP (1989) Studies in the way of words. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  10. Grinsell T (forthcoming) Linguistics and legislative intentGoogle Scholar
  11. Gwiazdomorski J (1974) Próba korektury pojęcia czynności prawnej [An attempt to reformulate the notion of legal action]. In: Zeszyty Naukowe Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, Prace z Wynalazczcości i ochrony własności intelektualnejGoogle Scholar
  12. Kaplan D (1979) Dthat. In: Uehling, Wettstein (eds) Contemporary perspectives in the philosophy of language, pp 383–400Google Scholar
  13. King JC (2014) Speaker intentions in context: speaker intentions in context. Noûs 48:219–237. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kripke SA (1998) Naming and necessity. Blackwell Publishers, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  15. List C (2018) What is it like to be a group agent? Noûs 52:295–319. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Marmor A (2014) The language of law, 1st edn. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Matczak M (2007) Summa iniuria: o błędzie formalizmu w stosowaniu prawa [On the mistake of formalism in applying the law]. Wyd. 1. Wydawn.Nauk. “Scholar”, WarszawaGoogle Scholar
  18. Matczak M (2016) Does legal interpretation need Paul Grice? Polish J Philos 10(1):67–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Matczak M (forthcoming) A theory that beats the theory? Lineages, the growth of signs and dynamic legal interpretationGoogle Scholar
  20. McGinn C (1981) The mechanism of reference. Synthese 49:157–186. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Millikan RG (2005) Language: a biological model. Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, Oxford; New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Montminy M (2010) Context and communication: a defense of intentionalism. J Pragmat 42:2910–2918. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nagel T (1974) What is it like to be a bat? Philos Revue 83:435. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Neale S (1992) Paul Grice and the philosophy of language. Linguis Philos 15:509–559. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Neale S (2005) Pragmatism and binding. In: Szabó ZG (ed) Semantics vs. pragmatics. Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, Oxford: New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Neale S (2016) Silent reference. In: Ostertag G (ed) Meanings and other things. Themes from the work of Stephen Schiffer. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  27. Perry J (2009) Directing intentions. In: Almog J, Leonardi P (eds) The philosophy of David Kaplan. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  28. Pietrzykowski T, Tobor Z (2010) Does a theory of contractual interpretation rest on a mistake? In: Heiderhoff B, Żmij G (eds) Interpretation in Polish, German and European Private Law. Sellier. European Law Publishers, MünchenGoogle Scholar
  29. Poggi F (2016) Grice, the law and the linguistic special case thesis. In: Capone A, Poggi F (eds) Pragmatics and law: philosophical perspectivesGoogle Scholar
  30. Predelli S (1998) I am not here now. Analysis 58:107–115. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Putnam H (2015) The meaning of “meaning”. In: Pessin A, Goldberg S (eds) The Twin earth chronicles: twenty years of reflection on Hilary Putnam’s “The meaning of ‘meaning’”Google Scholar
  32. Robaczyński W (2014) Komentarz do art.65 Kodeksu cywilnego [Commentary to article 65 of the Polish Civil Code]. In: Kodeks Cywilny. Komentarz. Część Ogólna, Lex 2014. Wolters Kluwer PolskaGoogle Scholar
  33. Scalia A, Gutmann A (2001) A matter of interpretation federal courts and the law. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  34. Searle JR (1999) Mind, language, and society: philosophy in the real world, 1. paperb. ed. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  35. Slocum BG (2016) Conversational implicatures and legal texts: conversational implicatures and legal texts. Ratio Juris 29:23–43. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Solan L (2010) The language of statutes laws and their interpretation. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Studnicki F (1971) O decyzjach kolektywnych [On collective decisions]. Państwo Prawo 266–274Google Scholar
  38. Tobor Z (2013) W poszukiwaniu intencji prawodawcy [Searching for legislative intentions]. Lex, WarszawaGoogle Scholar
  39. Wettstein HK (1984) How to bridge the gap between meaning and reference. Synthese 58:63–84. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Izabela Skoczeń
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Legal Theory and Jagiellonian Centre for Law, Language and PhilosophyJagiellonian UniversityKrakówPoland

Personalised recommendations