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Scholars sometimes frame debates on legal interpretation in terms of differences between intentionalists and nonintentionalists. However, even nonintentionalists commonly adopt some form of intentional interpretation. For example, when Justice William Brennan (1906–1997) of the U.S. Supreme Court disputed intentionalism in legal interpretation, he argued that the Constitution “was not intended to preserve a preexisting society” (1988: 18). The disagreement between Brennan and his opponents was not a matter of intentionalism versus nonintentionalism. Implicitly, it concerned different sorts of intention.

We may distinguish varieties of intentions through two parameters: (1) the object of intention and (2) the intending subject. Objects of intention are semantic or practical, thus meanings or goals. In interpreting a legal norm, we may concern ourselves with the intentional meanings of the text ...

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