Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

The Occasions of Law (and the Occasions of Interpretation) [Special Issue]

Topics: Philosophy of law, Theoretical philosophy
Keywords: Easy cases., Hard cases, Law, Legal interpretation


When John Searle observed that there is “no remark without remarkableness,” he made a point about the pragmatics of conversation that is importantly applicable to legal interpretation. Just as the act of remarking, according to Searle, presupposes some reason for the remark, so too does the act of legal interpretation presuppose a reason to interpret. This paper explores this phenomenon, and identifies the distinct occasions that call for an act of interpretation.


No remark without remarkableness” is one of the philosopher John Searle’s most profound insights. It may be true, for example, that Professor X is not drunk, but if I say that Professor X is not drunk then something else is going on, and my statement has a more complex meaning. More specifically, by saying— remarking—that Professor X is not drunk, I am implying that there is a reason for saying that he is not drunk. Searle’s important point is that the most plausible reason for saying that Professor X is not drunk is that there is something remarkable— something worth remarking about—about his not being drunk. In some contexts this remarkableness might stem from the way in which a person might be different from other people.


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