Ronald Dworkin’s theory of law as best interpretativemodel is very complex and it challenges positivism. He aims to weaken thepositivist insight that there is a clear distinction between law and morality. Hetries to distinct between the concept of the law and provides the interpretationof what the law is. He also examines that there is no distinction that could bemade between the nature of the law and adjudication as they both gives the sametype of reasoning and imposes the best interpretation of the law. In “law’sambition for itself,” he says, the interpretative model provides the bestinterpretation of positive law only if it shows the positive law in the bestpossible light.
This paper will discuss the critical analysis and its criticismon Dworkin’s arguments on interpretive model as it provides the bestinterpretation when it is given in the best light. Dworkin argues that the interpretive model ofadjudication distinguishes between the positive law (the law in statues andprecedents), and the full law (the set of principles of political morality thatprovides the best interpretation of the positive law). In Dworkin’sinterpretative model, he argues that the best interpretation of positive law isthe one that shows positive law in the best possible light and this could onlyhappen if a decision meets the conditions of two dimensions of law: thedimension of fit, and the dimension of justification. He says that a decision is fit if it is consistentwith the positive law and it is justified if it shows the best course of statesmanship.The best course of statesmanship possible happens when it expresses a morehumane vision of society and is more inclusive. Dworkin views that law has botha descriptive and a normative dimension; and his views captures what iscommendable about both natural law and positivism.
Dworkin argues that the interpretation relates topurposes, but he takes the explanation of such purposes as an essential partand relates to the real meaning of interpretation. He presents three mainpoints about the nature of interpretation: the interpretative model presentsits objects in its best possible light; the interpretative model is “genre-dependent”;and some constraints that determines the limits of possible interpretations. Dworkin mentions in “Law’s ambitions for itself” that lawchanges through adjudication as well as explicit legislation. “Judges oftendescribe the law, that is, as different from what people had taken it to bebefore, and use their novel description to decide the very case in which it isannounced” (p.109).
Under hisarguments, if two different interpretations are given to a novel, for anexample, and according to one of the interpretation, the novel emerges in abetter light, than that is a better novel. He argues that if one wants tocriticize someone’s else point, that person is not going to convince anyone ofthe cogency of his/her critic unless he/she tries to present the object of his/hercritic in its best possible light. He argues that, that does not mean thatanything that person says has to be valuable. On the other hand, there might bea little of in convincing everyone of why it is a failure unless he/she triesto make the best of it.The only possible alternative to Dworkin’s argumentsthat he sees is the theory of “author’s intention”. He believes that even inthe case of “literary interpretation” if the assumption is that what the textmeans is only what the author intended it to mean, then, this means that thetext is not being given the best light (p.112).
On the other hand, if the textis being read exclusively, for a better reading, then, that, perhaps, might bean interesting critique, and not an interpretation of it. Therefore, in orderto substantiate the main theme of the model of interpretation, Dworkin mustdeny the author’s intention model.Similarly, one can only interpret a text if he gets asense of what type of text it is; he cannot begin to interpret the text unlesshe knows what makes that text in that genre better (or worse). Because onecannot interpret the text without having the knowledge about what is it thatmakes the text good or bad, we can say that Dworkin was successful in maintaininghis arguments that without having some kind of knowledge about values in thegenre no interpretation can be given. However, Dworkin’s arguments only proveto the point that only alternative to the interpretative model is the author’sintention model. Dworkin’s insistence on the “best possible light” onlyrests on the assumption that in every case, there is a possibility that the genrewill have some kind of judgment about what makes it the best possible example. However,Dworkin’s this assumption ignores the problem of lack of quality.
Therefore,there is simply no such thing as the “best possible light”. On the other hand, Dworkin argues that theinterpretative model bridges the gap between the natural law and positivism. Whereasnatural law argues that the question of the nature of law is essentiallynormative as it is dependent upon the moral norms. Positivism, on the otherhand, argues that the question of law must be distinguished from the questionwhat law should be.Dworkin believes that when a person seeks to accountfor what the law requires in a given case, that person is bound to make somenormative statement. Dworkin claims that the concept of law is normative;therefore, this might be the reason in which Dworkin’s jurisprudence is a theoryof adjudication. He refuses to differentiate the interpretation model of thelaw between its requirements, and its concept because he believes that both ofthese – requirements and the concept – imposes the same purpose on the givencase.
Dworkin argues that law is legitimate and serves itsbest purpose only if it provides a justification for the use of collectivepower against individuals and that since the value of political integrity does this,it leads us to the best interpretation of law. Dworkin also argues that the functionaland empirical nature of the law is missing an appreciation that both aspects ofthe law have a place in any complex legal system. Since the viability of anysystem depends on there being a critical mass of individuals voluntarilyobeying and enforcing the law, and since the point of a legal system is torightly allocate the benefits of cooperative society, legal principles that canbe used to justify and develop the positive law are foundational.
On the other hand, Dworkin denies the distinction thatderives from the interpretation model from the statement that anyinterpretation must strive to present its object in its best possible light. Dworkin’sarguments about the requirements and the concept of the law depend on oneaspect of his interpretation theory – the idea that interpretative modelprovides the best interpretation if it presents its object in the best possiblelight. However, this model is problematic as the connectionbetween interpretation and the best are both under motivated, andDworkin’s arguments for legal theory as in interpretation of social practice arebaseless. Even if we do accept Dworkin’s argument for the best interpretationmodel, it may not follow the kind of evaluative judgements that legal theorymust rely on those judgments that judges are expected to make. The law must benormative, guiding their conduct; so from a legal perspective, it would makesense that the interpretation of law is a somewhat a matter of moral judgment. However, from the legal theorist perspective, the “bestpossible light” might not necessarily mean morally best, rather it would dependon the nature of the law. If the main purpose of this theory is to justify thelaw, to explain why would anyone obey the law, then it may be the case that “thebest” is a moral best. On the other hand, analytical jurisprudence strives tounderstand what the law is.
It is a theory about the nature of the law and notabout the obligation to obey the law.