Artificial Intelligence and Law

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 51–91 | Cite as

An argumentation framework for contested cases of statutory interpretation

  • Douglas WaltonEmail author
  • Giovanni Sartor
  • Fabrizio Macagno


This paper proposes an argumentation-based procedure for legal interpretation, by reinterpreting the traditional canons of textual interpretation in terms of argumentation schemes, which are then classified, formalized, and represented through argument visualization and evaluation tools. The problem of statutory interpretation is framed as one of weighing contested interpretations as pro and con arguments. The paper builds an interpretation procedure by formulating a set of argumentation schemes that can be used to comparatively evaluate the types of arguments used in cases of contested statutory interpretation in law. A simplified version of the Carneades Argumentation System is applied in a case analysis showing how the procedure works. A logical model for statutory interpretation is finally presented, covering pro-tanto and all-things-considered interpretive conclusions.


Argumentation systems Interpreting statutes Ordinary language meaning Argument from purpose Ambiguity Abductive reasoning Argumentation schemes 



Douglas Walton would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for award of Insight Grant 435-2012-0104 (2012–2018). Fabrizio Macagno would like to thank the Fundação para a Ciência ea Tecnologia for the research Grants IF/00945/2013 and PTDC/MHC-FIL/0521/2014.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas Walton
    • 1
    Email author
  • Giovanni Sartor
    • 2
  • Fabrizio Macagno
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric (CRRAR), Department of PhilosophyUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada
  2. 2.EUI Law DepartmentEuropean University InstituteFlorenceItaly
  3. 3.Instituto de Filosofia da Linguagem, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e HumanasUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortual

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