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\u22Fetch Some Soupmeat\u22

By Jr. William N. Eskridge


Although first published over 150 years ago, Francis Lieber\u27s Legal and Political Hermeneutics remains broadly influential, and the soupmeat hypothetical in particular has been reproduced in the most widely read twentieth-century legal texts for teaching statutory interpretation. The directive, \u22fetch some soupmeat,\u22 seems straightforward in most situations, because the housekeeper and the servant are operating under the same assumptions, and because their shared assumptions are borne out as the servant goes about his task. Lieber\u27s project-and the project of any sophisticated theoretical treatment of statutory interpretation-was to explore the many ways in which \u22fetch some soupmeat\u22 proves susceptible to surprising interpretations. I should like to explore some variations of the hypothetical in order to demonstrate how Lieber\u27s vividly written treatise both anticipated twentieth-century theories and suggested lines of deeper analyses than subsequent analysts have been able to do. On the one hand, Lieber appreciates the appeal of all the \u22foundational\u22 theories of interpretation (one factor is the focus of the enterprise) and explicates these theories in strikingly familiar terms. On the other hand, Hermeneutics is eclectic and anti-foundational. Lieber\u27s approach is on the whole most similar to a \u22practical reasoning\u22 approach. I shall conclude, however, with a discussion of the ways in which current theorizing about statutory evolution has intellectually advanced beyond Lieber\u27s approach

Topics: Law
Publisher: Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository
Year: 1995
OAI identifier: oai:digitalcommons.law.yale.edu:fss_papers-2696
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