Statutory interpretation as argumentation

Douglas Walton, Giovanni Sartor, Fabrizio Macagno

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter proposes a dialectical approach to legal interpretation, consisting of three dimensions: (1) a formalization of the canons of interpretation in terms of argumentation schemes; (2) a dialectical classification of interpretive schemes; and (3) a logical and computational model for comparing the arguments pro and contra an interpretation. The traditional interpretive maxims or canons used in both common and civil law are translated into defeasible patterns of arguments, which can be evaluated through sets of corresponding critical questions. These interpretive argumentation schemes are classified in general categories and a distinction is drawn between schemes supporting and rebutting an interpretation. This framework allows conceiving statutory interpretation as a dialectical procedure consisting in weighing arguments pro and contra an interpretation. This procedure is formalized and represented computationally through tools from formal argumentation systems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Legal Reasoning and Argumentation
EditorsG. Bongiovanni, G. Postema, A. Rotolo, G. Sartor, C. Valentini, D. Walton
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages42
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-481-9452-0
ISBN (Print)978-90-481-9451-3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2018


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