Legal interpretation in Paul Amselek’s phenomenology of law — between subjectivism and objectivism


  • Maria Gołębiewska



hermeneutics; understanding; intersubjectivity; sense; meaning; intention


The aim of the article is to characterise and analyse Paul Amselek’s research approach to legal hermeneutics. The text provides an outline of Amselek’s assumptions and theses about legal interpretation, considered in the broad context of hermeneutics, and in the narrower context of legal logic and argument (including rhetoric and speech act theory). In point of fact, one of the methodological aims of Amselek’s philosophical reflection is to harmonise the two indicated contexts for framing interpretation — the wide context of hermeneutics, and the more narrow context of legal logic and argument. Amselek refers to issues in communication theory, reaching beyond the hermeneutic concept of text interpretation and evocation of the original authorial intention. He analyses the legal text-message in its content and argument layers, he also endeavours to specify the methodological possibilities of interpreting the attitudes and motivations of subjects — participants in communication situation (the sender and receiver of the message). He also inquires about the ethical attitudes of jurisdiction authorities, performing the interpretation of a body of law — the subjects responsible for lawmaking and the execution of law. Adopting post-Enlightenment anthropological assumptions, Amselek accepts the primacy of rationality in cognition, decision making, and activity of the human individual. However, in his considerations on interpretation he concurrently underscores the role of affective factors, motivating many choices and actions made by legal subjects.