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legislative intent, statutory interpretation, jurisprudence, deconstruction, doctrinalists

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Jurisprudence | Law | Legal History


An aspect of the battle over deconstruction is whether resort to legislative intent might help to determine the content of a statutory text that otherwise, in splendid isolation, could be deconstructed by simply positing different interpretive contexts. I examine the same issue by recounting my own quest for determinate meaning in statutes—a sort of personal legislative history. I do not claim for jurisprudence the role of ensuring faithful reception of the legislature's message, for that is impossible. At best, jurisprudential theory only reduces the degrees of interpretive freedom, and then only probably, not necessarily. The more significant thesis of this article is that all theories of statutory interpretation can only do that much and no more.