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20151334 | Abri Sunny Anthraper

Reflection Paper on Statutory Interpretation as Practical Reasoning

The need for interpretation arises from the fundamental difference of understandings in
meanings, contexts, political scenarios, words, etc. Methods of interpretation are required for
us to reach an outcome that can uphold justice and good conscience. As we usher in the era of
technology this paper offers an model inclusive of technology and prevalent interpretation
methods that is opposed to the practical reasoning model. This paper will walk through the
arguments of the authors showing its reasons for agreement and disagreement wherever

Foundational Theories do Not Work

There has always been a problem with grand theories in law, whether it be Ronald
Dworkin’s absolute truth model, HLA Hart’s Rules, Lon Fuller on polycentric adjudication
etc., by their very existence the irrevocable assumption is the fact that they reject all other
theories. The main foundationalist schools of Intentionalism, Purposivism and Textualism have
the same irrevocable assumption. These schools aspire to be the only relied on methods to
interpret statutes by being able to produce identical results whenever applied. The obvious con
of such rigidity is that when such schools are applied, inflexibly, while interpreting, the results
produced will be incongruent. When using such methods, evolutive considerations in law take
a degrading hit.
The authors attack intentionalism by concentrating on how the school misinterprets
legislative functioning. Intentionalism then is not able to capture truly what intentions were
within the minds of the Legislators while enacting the law. This paper finds credit in this
rebuttal. As a school of interpretation by itself, intentionalism is some this paper disagrees with.
The intentions of various legislative members to enact a law can be multifarious. The reasons
of the authors for disregarding intentionalism is well founded as firstly there is the impossibility
of ever truly knowing the reasons of individual legislators for enacting specific legislation. In
addition to this is the fact that no matter the intention that is adduced there is no scope for any
judge to go beyond the physically expressed version of that intention, the text. Even if there
still came a conclusion as to the intention of what the legislature meant, a judge is interpreting
the laws for the benefit of the people exposed to it. If the intention of the legislator was mala
fide then the judge would necessarily have to enact that intention
The next foundational school that the authors comment on is purposivism. The
definition given by the authors to purposivism while correct is but a shallow representation of
its true depth. The idea that the purpose for which a statute is brought into force and not the
intention of the legislators is supreme is an argument this paper agrees with. Regardless of the
intentions of the legislators that are considered, once an act has come into force the guiding
factor as to the main objectives of that statute must be the purpose for which it has been enacted.
The argument that the authors provide in response to purposivism is that the purpose itself for
which a statute has been enacted could be fuelled by legislative supremacy by one political
party. This paper agrees with the fact that the purpose of a statute itself could be wrong and
hence purposivism should not be used but disagrees that this ground is heavy enough to

20151334 | Abri Sunny Anthraper

outweigh the positives of using this interpretative method. At least in the India context,
separation of powers is a concept that is respected usually not to be defiled by governments,
legislatures nor judiciaries. There are multiple tests given to test the validity of an act so passed.
If the text can be seen as valid, the judges must respect the act and the purpose it stands for.
Conscientiously speaking an act might be against the moral compass of a judge sitting on the
bench but their job is not to read their own versions of the purpose into the act but rather to try
and find the true purpose of the act regardless of how it affects their moral compass, assuming
that it is not ultra vires the constitution.
This paper agrees with the authors’ attack on textualism on several accounts, that the
context of the values of the interpreter must be considered which itself makes it unreliable. In
addition to this, there is the criticism of relying only on the words strictly which is a concern
that in effect nullifies the need to interpret at all.

The Positive Model of Practical Reasoning

The authors give three points of inspiration for their model of practical reasoning, the
first being the fusion of horizons metaphor propounded by Hans Gadamer, the second being
the role of the interpreter in giving meaning to the text which is an Aristotelian concept and
thirdly is the web of beliefs metaphor which is a driving force in American pragmatism and
Hermeneutics. In addition to these factors, the authors consider the chain-cable metaphor and
hermeneutic circle. Using all these tools the authors hope to arrive at the true interpretative
answer by looking at various sources ranging from statutory text to the current policy.
This paper argues that the role of the interpreter is the only important factor in
interpretation and the rest factors are merely ancillary. This paper argues that the only factor
that is uncontrollable by law is the mind of the interpreter. This is impossible to get around as
every human thinks differently.
The fusion of horizons can be defeated on the face of it itself. The need for the judiciary
to extend laws of the past to apply to the given day and age in which they are interpreting is a
useless exercise. The abuse of such a power is not too hard to understand. By fusing horizons
of old criminal laws, if the context would permit, then it would be possible for a judge to convict
a juvenile at the same level of seriousness as an adult if there were any age discrepancies in
that law.
The web of beliefs would mean that every value will borrow meaning from another
value, the same value could be used for justification on both sides that come for adjudication.
For example, in case of a human rights violation by a terrorist, it is inconsistent to punish
someone who has violated human rights as by that person being a human will have certain
human rights that must apply to them. This would turn the whole idea of punishment on its
head. There is no certainty in the web of beliefs metaphor.
The point about who is interpreting the text makes most sense, and it is best explained
by the American Legal Realists. When they talk about the judge’s decision being affected by
what he ate in the morning. A person’s reasoning being housed inside a human head which is
in contact with human hormones and emotions will produce unwanted results when it is in an
uncomfortable situation. There is no certainty that any judge will be comfortable in their minds
in perpetuity. This problem is answered in the next section.

20151334 | Abri Sunny Anthraper


This paper suggests a form of statutory interpretation that will work in tandem with
technological advancements like artificial intelligence as human beings tire out and can suffer
from mental exhaustion. The model suggested is purpose-based textualism that will find
consistencies throughout the legal history of the statute and only staying connected to the root
purpose for which a statute gets implemented, not to have its purpose stretched beyond the
initial purpose intended.
Taking the text as the final intention of the legislature the model does not concern itself
with what could have been the intentions behind the passing of a legislation but rather would
use its time to deduce evidence and history that will show the purpose of the legislation.
Instances of the use of the legislation without meeting any hinderances. Case laws on how
different issues related to the legislation got resolved. Inconsistencies in the law itself when
enacting legislation that might go against the basic structure doctrine.
The paper recognises the downfall of such a model in cases where new legislation is
having its first issue in court. But this is exactly where the textualist part of the model kicks
into place. With the advancements in technology, it is easy to find out inconsistencies when a
legislature is enacting a new law. A more diligent legislature will result in much better-drafted
laws that will be in congruence with the constitution. Thus, the text will speak the purpose of
the statute and the purpose will be limited by the text. The intentions should not be given heed
as it is the enacted law that governs people and the judiciary must only concern itself with
methods on how to tackle such issues.

20151334 | Abri Sunny Anthraper


1. William, Eskridge N., and Philip J. Frickey. “Statutory Interpretation as Practical Reasoning.” Yale Law

School Faculty Scholarship, 1 Jan. 1990.

2. Manning, John F. “The New Purposivism.” The Supreme Court Review, vol. 2011, no. 1, 2012, pp. 113–

182. JSTOR,

3. Dockhorn, Klaus, and Marvin Brown. “Hans-Georg Gadamer's ‘Truth and Method.’” Philosophy &

Rhetoric, vol. 13, no. 3, 1980, pp. 160–180. JSTOR,

4. Fuller, L. L. “American Legal Realism.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 76,

no. 2, 1936, pp. 191–235. JSTOR,

5. Rissland, Edwina L. “Artificial Intelligence and Law: Stepping Stones to a Model of Legal

Reasoning.” The Yale Law Journal, vol. 99, no. 8, 1990, pp. 1957–1981. JSTOR,