LAW214-LAWS805_TBa_45-86.pdf

Practice will lapse back into the static and

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practice will lapse back into the static and mechanical state in which it began. A FIRST LOOK AT INTERPRETATION That is a birds-eye view from the perspective of history of how the tradition of courtesy changes over time. We must now consider the dynamics of transformation from closer in, by noticing the kinds of judgments and decisions and argu - ments tha| produce each individual s response to the tradi - tion, the responses that collectively, over long periods, produce the large changes we first noticed. We need some account of how the attitude I call interpretive works from the inside^ from the point of view of interpreters. Unfortu - nately, even a preliminary account will be controversial, fot* if a community uses interpretive concepts at all, the concept of interpretation itself will be one of them: a theory of inter - pretation is an interpretation of the higher-order practice of using interpretive concepts. (So any adequate account of in - terpretation must hold true of itself.) In this chapter I offer a theoretical account particularly designed to explain inter - preting social practices and structures like courtesy, and I defend that account against some fundamental and ap - parently powerful objections. The discussion will, I fear, take us far from law, into controversies about interpretation that have occupied mainly literary scholars, social scientists, and
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50 INTERPRETIVE CONCEPTS philosophers. But if law is an interpretive concept, any juris - prudence worth having must be built on some view of what interpretation is, and the analysis of interpretation I con - struct and defend in this chapter is the foundation of the rest of the book. The detour is essential. Interpreting a social practice is only one form or occasion of interpretation. People interpret in many different con - texts, and we should begin by seeking some sense of how these contexts differ. The most familiar occasion of interpre - tation so familiar that we hardly recognize it as such is conversation. We interpret the sounds or marks another per - son makes in order to decide what he has said. So-called sci - entific interpretation is another context: we say that a scientist first collects data and then interprets them. Artistic interpretation is yet another: critics interpret poems and plays and paintings in order to defend some view of their meaning or theme or point. The form of interpretation we are studying the interpretation of a social practice is like [artistic interpretation in this way: both aim to interpret something created by people as an entity distinct from them, rather than what people say, as in conversational interpreta - tion, or events not created by people, as in scientific inter- pretation.| I shall capitalize on that similarity between artis- nc interpretation and the interpretation of social practice; I shall call them both forms of creative interpretation to distin - guish them from conversational and scientific interpretation.
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