•  194
    Sample chapter from H. Asgeirsson, The Nature and Value of Vagueness in the Law (Hart Publishing, 2020), in which I present and partially defend a version of what has come to be called the communicative-content theory of law. Book abstract: Lawmaking is – paradigmatically – a type of speech act: people make law by saying things. It is natural to think, therefore, that the content of the law is determined by what lawmakers communicate. However, what they communicate is sometimes vague and, even w…Read more
  •  165
    The Sorites Paradox in Practical Philosophy
    In Sergi Oms & Elia Zardini (eds.), The Sorites Paradox. 2019.
    The first part of the chapter surveys some of the main ways in which the Sorites Paradox has figured in arguments in practical philosophy in recent decades, with special attention to arguments where the paradox is used as a basis for criticism. Not coincidentally, the relevant arguments all involve the transitivity of value in some way. The second part of the chapter is more probative, focusing on two main themes. First, I further address the relationship between the Sorites Paradox and the main…Read more
  •  57
    Vagueness and Power-Delegation in Law: A Reply to Sorensen
    In Michael Freeman & Fiona Smith (eds.), Current Legal Issues: Law and Language, Oxford University Press. 2013.
    Roy Sorensen has argued that vagueness in the law cannot be justified by appeal to the value of power-delegation, and thereby threatens to take away one of the main reasons for thinking that vagueness can be valuable to law. Delegation of power to officials is justified, he thinks, only if these officials are in a better position to discover whether a particular x is F, a condition not satisfied in cases of vagueness. I argue that Sorensen’s argument is unsound: delegation of power can be valuab…Read more
  •  84
    On the Instrumental Value of Vagueness in the Law
    Ethics 125 (2): 425-448. 2015.
    It is natural to think that law ought not to be vague. After all, law is supposed to guide conduct, and vague law seems poorly suited to do that. Contrary to this common impression, however, a number of authors have argued that vagueness in the law is sometimes a good thing, because it is a means to achieving certain valuable legislative ends. In this article, I argue that many authors—including Timothy Endicott and Jeremy Waldron—wrongly associate vagueness with instrumental roles that are real…Read more
  •  15
    Scott Soames has recently argued that the fact that lawmakers and other legal practitioners regard vagueness as having a valuable power-delegating function gives us good reason to favor one theory of vagueness over another. If Soames is right, then facts about legal practice can in an important sense adjudicate between rival theories of vagueness. I argue that due to what I call the “Gappiness Problem” – raised by recent critics of the “communicative-content theory of law” – we have to give up t…Read more
  •  33
    Vagueness, Comparative Value, and the "Lawmakers' Challenge"
    Archiv für Rechts- Und Sozialphilosophie 98 (3): 299-316. 2012.
    In "The Value of Vagueness," Timothy Endicott argues that vague law can be better than precise law. I think he is in many respects correct, but will suggest that we modify and supplement his framework in order to get a firmer grip on what I call the Lawmakers' Challenge: the scenario in which lawmakers find themselves when they must determine whether the consequences of precision are worse than the consequences of vagueness. This will allow us to identify several points of actual and possible di…Read more
  •  20
    Textualist and originalist legal reasoning usually involves something like the following thesis, whether implicitly or explicitly: the legal content of a statute or constitutional clause is the linguistic content that a reasonable member of the relevant audience would, knowing the context and conversational background, associate with the enactment. In this paper, I elucidate some important aspects of this thesis, emphasizing the important role that contextual enrichment plays in textualist and o…Read more
  • The existing literature on indeterminacy in the law focuses mostly on the use of vague terms in legislation – terms the use of which makes the content of the relevant utterance to some extent indeterminate. As I aim to show, however, not only is the content of a legislative utterance often indeterminate, it is often indeterminate what the content of such an utterance is. In the first two sections of the paper, I discuss in some detail the conditions for successful non-literal speech and address …Read more