Understanding and applying legal concepts : an inquiry on inferential meaning
Title: Understanding and applying legal concepts : an inquiry on inferential meaning
Author: SARTOR, Giovanni
Citation: Jaap C. HAGE and Dietmar VON DER PFORDTEN (eds), Concepts in law, Amsterdam : Springer, 2009, pp. 35-54
ISBN: 9789048129812; 9789048129829
Legal concepts are typically encountered in the context of legal norms, and the issue of determining their content cannot be separated from the issue of identifying and interpreting (or constructing) the norms in which they occur, and of using such norms in legal inference. Consequently, it can be argued that a legal system endows its concepts with meaning exactly by embedding such concepts (the terms expressing them) within certain legal norms. Rather than assuming that legal terms have a prior independent meaning, according to which we should determine the meaning of the norms containing them, we should focus on the norms containing such terms and on the inferences they enable, and consequently determine the conceptual contents that such terms are meant to convey. This is particularly the case for the so-called ‘intermediate legal concepts,’ namely, those concepts through which legal norms convey both legal consequences and preconditions of further legal effects, as we shall see in the following. These are indeed the concepts whose semantics we want to investigate, and to which we shall refer when speaking of ‘legal concepts’ tout court.
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