The Inextricable Entanglement of Argumentation and Interpretation in Law


  • Miloš Marković Ph.D. student, Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade



At the basis of tireless efforts to explain the nature of law lies the question of how judges should decide cases. Therefrom arises a need for a theory that would clarify the role of the courts and, moreover, provide guidance to them on reaching judgments. The history of legal theory abounds with various attempts to offer a generally acceptable answer to the question raised. The fervor of debate and the perpetual dissatisfaction with offered solutions prompted the thought of untamable arbitrariness of judges. In the contemporary debate the significance of argumentation is particularly emphasized as a link of the court procedure which provides reasonableness and therewith justification and persuasiveness of the decision.

Before going into the matter, I will indicate in broad strokes which areas of legal theory do argumentation and interpretation belong to. The purpose of setting a conceptual framework is to prevent losing sight of the whole as well as to limit the scope of discourse to a certain section of legal issues. The second part deals with the concept of argumentation in general and some specific features of the argumentation in law. The third part examines the role of legal interpretation and draws a clear distinction between the interpretation as a process and the interpretation as a result. At the end of the discussion I shall put forward a thesis that the interpretation as a process is argumentation, while the interpretation as a result is an argument in the justification of judgment.


Aarnio, Aulis (1990), “On Rational Acceptability. Some remarks on Legal Justification“, in: Law, Interpretation and Reality – Essays in Epistemology, Hermeneutics and Jurisprudence. Amsterdam: Springer, 73-83.
Alexy, Robert (1991), Theorie der Juristischen Argumentation. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Alexy, Robert (1995), “Juristische Interpretation”, in: Recht, Vernunft, Diskurs. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 71–92.
Alexy, Robert (1995), “Die Idee einer prozeduralen Theorie der juristischen Argumentation“, in: Recht, Vernunft, Diskurs. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 177-188.
Alexy, Robert (1995), “Probleme der Diskurstheorie“, in: Recht, Vernunft, Diskurs. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 109-126.
Alexy, Robert (2000), ”Recht und Richtigkeit“, in: The Reasonable as Rational? On Legal Argumentation and Justification. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 3-19.
Alexy, Robert (2002), The Argument from Injustice. A Reply to Legal Positivism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Alexy, Robert (2004), “The Nature of Legal Philosophy”, Ratio Juris, Vol. 17 No. 2: 156-167.
Dickson, Julie, “Interpretation and Coherence in Legal Reasoning”, (internet) available at: (viewed 20 June, 2017)
Dworkin, Ronald (1986), Law’s Empire. Cambridge: Belknap Press.
Dworkin, Ronald (1977), “The Model of Rules I”, in: Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 14-46.
Feteris, Eveline (1999), Fundamentals of Legal Argumentation. Amsterdam: Springer.
Feteris, Eveline, Kloosterhuis, Harm (2009), “The Analysis and Evaluation of Legal Argumentation: Approaches from Legal Theory and Argumentation Theory”, Studies in Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric, 16 (29): 307-331.
Frankfurter, Felix (1963), “Reading of Statutes“, in: Essays on Jurisprudence from the Columbia Law Review. New York: Columbia University Press.
Hart, Herbert (1994), The Concept of Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
MacCormick, Neil (1993), “Argumentation and Interpretation in Law”, in Ratio Juris, Vol. 6 No. 1: 16-29.
MacCormick, Neil (2005), “Arguing about Interpretation“, in: MacCormick, Neil (ed.), Rhetoric and the Rule of Law – A Theory of Legal Reasoning. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 121-143.
Marmor, Andrei, Sarch, Alexander, “The Nature of Law”, (internet) available at: (viewed 20 June, 2017)
Rescher, Nicholas (2007), Dialectics – A Classical Approach to Inquiry. Heusenstamm: Ontos Verlag.
Rüthers, Bernd, Fischer, Christian, Birk, Axel (2015), Rechtstheorie mit Juristischer Methodenlehre. München: C. H. Beck.
Van Eemeren, Frans H. (2001), “The State of the Art in Argumentation Theory”, in: Van Eemeren, Frans H. (ed.), Crucial Concepts in Argumentation Theory. Amsterdam: Sic Sat, 11-26.
Van Eemeren, Frans H. (2001), “Fallacies“, in: Van Eemeren, Frans H. (ed.), Crucial Concepts in Argumentation Theory. Amsterdam: Sic Sat, 135-165.
Van Eemeren, Frans H. et al. (2014), Handbook of Argumentation Theory. Dordrecht: Springer.
Van Eemeren, Frans H., Henkemans, Francisca Snoeck A. (2017), Argumentation – Analysis and Evaluation. New York: Routledge.



How to Cite

Marković, M. (2017) “The Inextricable Entanglement of Argumentation and Interpretation in Law”, Filozofija i društvo/Philosophy and Society. Belgrade, Serbia, 28(4), pp. 1087–1101. doi: 10.2298/FID1704087M.