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Interpretation in International Law$
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Andrea Bianchi, Daniel Peat, and Matthew Windsor

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198725749

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198725749.001.0001

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The Existential Function of Interpretation in International Law

The Existential Function of Interpretation in International Law

(p.78) 4 The Existential Function of Interpretation in International Law
Interpretation in International Law

Duncan B. Hollis

Oxford University Press

For most international lawyers, interpretation involves acts giving meaning to a particular legal rule. However, in international law, the meaning arrived at by an interpreter is not simply a function of the method and technique employed but rests on an array of earlier choices about what ‘exists’ to be interpreted in the first place. This chapter seeks to uncover the ‘existential function’ of interpretation in international law. It explains how all interpretations have existential effects as they create, confirm, or deny the existence of the subject of interpretation. At the same time, it identifies a particular structure of interpretative argument—what it calls ‘existential interpretation’—by which interpreters ascertain the existence of their subjects. It reviews examples of this phenomenon in questions about the existence of interpretative authority, evidence, international law, and its sources.

Keywords:   existential interpretation, treaty interpretation, sources doctrine, dispute resolution, secondary rules, international legal theory, positivism, naturalism, principal-agent theory

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