Foundational Doctrines and Techniques of International Legal Argumentation
Elgar International Law series
Chapter 7: Interpretation
International law is understood in this book as an argumentative practice constituted of fundamental doctrines and argumentative techniques. Those doctrines and techniques are deployed with a view to securing validation of legal arguments according to modes that have been inherited from a socialization process. Yet, as has already been pointed out, the distinction between foundational doctrines and argumentative techniques is not always self-evident. Interpretation is a good illustration thereof. The codification of the so-called “rules on interpretation” in the two Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties may indeed convey an image of interpretation as a foundational doctrine. Clearly, this book takes the opposite view and considers interpretation to be an argumentative technique. This is probably not controversial. This being said, whether interpretation qualifies as a foundational doctrine or an argumentative technique is probably a debate of little relevance. It seems more important to look into the conceptual choices made by international lawyers to organize and constrain content-determination in international law. This means reflecting on the way in which interpretation (and its supposed rules) have been construed and designed. This is the object of this chapter. For the sake of this chapter, it is submitted that the world any human or corporate person operates in is an aggregation of normative universes which are all individually structured around the possibility of right or wrong, of permissible or impermissible, of valid or invalid.
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