Ronald Dworkin’s theory of law as best interpretative
model is very complex and it challenges positivism. He aims to weaken the
positivist insight that there is a clear distinction between law and morality. He
tries to distinct between the concept of the law and provides the interpretation
of what the law is. He also examines that there is no distinction that could be
made between the nature of the law and adjudication as they both gives the same
type of reasoning and imposes the best interpretation of the law.

 In “law’s
ambition for itself,” he says, the interpretative model provides the best
interpretation of positive law only if it shows the positive law in the best
possible light. This paper will discuss the critical analysis and its criticism
on Dworkin’s arguments on interpretive model as it provides the best
interpretation when it is given in the best light.

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Dworkin argues that the interpretive model of
adjudication distinguishes between the positive law (the law in statues and
precedents), and the full law (the set of principles of political morality that
provides the best interpretation of the positive law). In Dworkin’s
interpretative model, he argues that the best interpretation of positive law is
the one that shows positive law in the best possible light and this could only
happen if a decision meets the conditions of two dimensions of law: the
dimension of fit, and the dimension of justification.

He says that a decision is fit if it is consistent
with 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 more
humane vision of society and is more inclusive. Dworkin views that law has both
a descriptive and a normative dimension; and his views captures what is
commendable about both natural law and positivism.

Dworkin argues that the interpretation relates to
purposes, but he takes the explanation of such purposes as an essential part
and relates to the real meaning of interpretation. He presents three main
points about the nature of interpretation: the interpretative model presents
its 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 law
changes through adjudication as well as explicit legislation. “Judges often
describe the law, that is, as different from what people had taken it to be
before, and use their novel description to decide the very case in which it is
announced” (p.109).

 Under his
arguments, if two different interpretations are given to a novel, for an
example, and according to one of the interpretation, the novel emerges in a
better light, than that is a better novel. He argues that if one wants to
criticize someone’s else point, that person is not going to convince anyone of
the cogency of his/her critic unless he/she tries to present the object of his/her
critic in its best possible light. He argues that, that does not mean that
anything that person says has to be valuable. On the other hand, there might be
a little of in convincing everyone of why it is a failure unless he/she tries
to make the best of it.

The only possible alternative to Dworkin’s arguments
that he sees is the theory of “author’s intention”. He believes that even in
the case of “literary interpretation” if the assumption is that what the text
means is only what the author intended it to mean, then, this means that the
text is not being given the best light (p.112). On the other hand, if the text
is being read exclusively, for a better reading, then, that, perhaps, might be
an interesting critique, and not an interpretation of it. Therefore, in order
to substantiate the main theme of the model of interpretation, Dworkin must
deny the author’s intention model.

Similarly, one can only interpret a text if he gets a
sense of what type of text it is; he cannot begin to interpret the text unless
he knows what makes that text in that genre better (or worse). Because one
cannot interpret the text without having the knowledge about what is it that
makes the text good or bad, we can say that Dworkin was successful in maintaining
his arguments that without having some kind of knowledge about values in the
genre no interpretation can be given. However, Dworkin’s arguments only prove
to the point that only alternative to the interpretative model is the author’s
intention model.

Dworkin’s insistence on the “best possible light” only
rests on the assumption that in every case, there is a possibility that the genre
will 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 the
interpretative model bridges the gap between the natural law and positivism. Whereas
natural law argues that the question of the nature of law is essentially
normative as it is dependent upon the moral norms. Positivism, on the other
hand, argues that the question of law must be distinguished from the question
what law should be.

Dworkin believes that when a person seeks to account
for what the law requires in a given case, that person is bound to make some
normative statement. Dworkin claims that the concept of law is normative;
therefore, this might be the reason in which Dworkin’s jurisprudence is a theory
of adjudication. He refuses to differentiate the interpretation model of the
law between its requirements, and its concept because he believes that both of
these – requirements and the concept – imposes the same purpose on the given

Dworkin argues that law is legitimate and serves its
best purpose only if it provides a justification for the use of collective
power 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 functional
and empirical nature of the law is missing an appreciation that both aspects of
the law have a place in any complex legal system. Since the viability of any
system depends on there being a critical mass of individuals voluntarily
obeying and enforcing the law, and since the point of a legal system is to
rightly allocate the benefits of cooperative society, legal principles that can
be used to justify and develop the positive law are foundational.

On the other hand, Dworkin denies the distinction that
derives from the interpretation model from the statement that any
interpretation must strive to present its object in its best possible light. Dworkin’s
arguments about the requirements and the concept of the law depend on one
aspect of his interpretation theory – the idea that interpretative model
provides the best interpretation if it presents its object in the best possible

However, this model is problematic as the connection
between interpretation and the best are both under motivated, and
Dworkin’s arguments for legal theory as in interpretation of social practice are
baseless. Even if we do accept Dworkin’s argument for the best interpretation
model, it may not follow the kind of evaluative judgements that legal theory
must rely on those judgments that judges are expected to make. The law must be
normative, guiding their conduct; so from a legal perspective, it would make
sense that the interpretation of law is a somewhat a matter of moral judgment.

However, from the legal theorist perspective, the “best
possible light” might not necessarily mean morally best, rather it would depend
on the nature of the law. If the main purpose of this theory is to justify the
law, to explain why would anyone obey the law, then it may be the case that “the
best” is a moral best. On the other hand, analytical jurisprudence strives to
understand what the law is. It is a theory about the nature of the law and not
about the obligation to obey the law. 


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