Textualists claim that they follow statutory text. This Article argues that, in practice, textualists often create meaning rather than find it. Deploying the analytics of linguistic philosophy, this Article takes a deep dive into textualist methodology. The philosophy of language reveals what legal scholarship has left submerged: The very choice of text can put the thumb on the scales of any interpretation. When one pulls a term out of a statute and isolates it from the rest of the text (what I call “isolationist” method), this decontextualization offers the opportunity for adding and subtracting meaning from the statute by “pragmatic enrichment.” Only by working out these enrichments is it possible to assess whether the hypothesized meanings are cancelled by the rest of the statute. In the end, we need to ask of all interpreters, including textualists, whether they are making rather than finding the meaning of statutes.
Picking and Choosing Text: Lessons for Statutory Interpretation from the Philosophy of Language,
69 Fla. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/flr/vol69/iss6/3