, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 93-125
Date: 23 May 2006

LON FULLER’S PHENOMENOLOGY OF LANGUAGE

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ABSTRACT

This essay retrieves Lon Fuller’s theory of language and the role of experience in such a theory. The essay distinguishes meaning from signification. A sign signifies or represents an object. Meaning is experienced before one ever signifies an object. Signification is cognitive. Meaning is bodily. Fuller locates meaning in what Hart excluded from legality as “pre-legal”. In the pre-legal realm, meant objects draw from memories and expectations. The memories may have been personally or collectively experienced. The analysis of rules takes signification for granted, however. When meaning is privileged, we appreciate why interpretation figures importantly in the role of the lawyer/official. So too, shared meanings, ‚located’ in experienced time, explain understanding and communication between members of a group. As a consequence of Fuller’s insights, meaning pre-conditions communication as well as the analysis of the signified rule. Since traditional analytical jurisprudence holds out that lawyers/officials analyse rules, both jurisprudence and the analytic project, Fuller cautions, risk being estranged from the lived meanings of the pre-legal realm. Instead, jurisprudes, lawyers and officials risk locking themselves into a fictitious world of dead concepts which are better known as rules.

An earlier draft of this paper was given to the Cambridge Forum for Legal and Political Philosophy, Cambridge UK. I am grateful to the participants for feed-back. I am also grateful for the research facilities of Clare Hall College, Cambridge, where the essay was researched and written, and to the anonymous referees of this journal.