Analogy and Interpretation in Legal Argumentation

  • Damiano CanaleEmail author
  • Giovanni Tuzet
Part of the Argumentation Library book series (ARGA, volume 25)


While restrictive interpretation is justified when “the law says more than it wanted”, extensive interpretation is justified when “the law says less than it wanted”. But extensive interpretation is in tension with the prohibition of reasoning by analogy in criminal law, so we should explain what the difference is between extensive interpretation and analogical reasoning. In some legal systems the latter is prohibited in criminal law (unless it is in favor of the accused) and the former is not, but it is very unclear whether there is a difference between the two and what it might be. Some scholars say that they differ from a theoretical point of view, since the ways they produce their outcomes are different: extensive interpretation claims that a given case falls under a norm obtained by interpreting extensively a given provision; analogical reasoning claims that a gap is filled by arguing analogically from a source case to a target case. Or, to put it differently, with the latter a new norm is created, while with the former the meaning of an existing norm is extended. But the two do not differ from a practical point of view, since their outcomes are the same (the regulation is extended to the case in hand). Is there a way to distinguish them in theory and practice? The paper will deal with this issue discussing a recent Italian case (the “Vatican Radio case”) where the Court of Cassation claimed to argue from extensive interpretation and not from analogy.


Analogy Criminal law Interpretation (extensive and restrictive) Legal argumentation Vagueness 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Legal StudiesBocconi UniversityMilanoItaly

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