This is a thesis in contract law concerning the distinction between interpretation of contracts (“tolkning”) and construction of contracts (“utfyllning”) traditionally upheld within Scandinavian doctrine. To some extent, this distinction has always been a source of conceptual confusion, but in late-modern times, it has, in certain respects, become almost unintelligible – owing to the gradual loss of function of the form of rationality that originally sustained it. The distinction is now a mere artefact. In itself, this fact does, of course, not make this particular conceptual contraption exceptional. As they are absorbed into the language of contract law, all successful contract law concepts undergoes a process of reification. In the case of the distinction between interpretation and construction, the result is, however, unusually curious.
In its traditional form, the distinction expresses the hope for a law of contract that is organized according to scientific principles. It rests on the assumption that it is desirable and possible, in principle, to separate science from non-science. It presupposes that questions of fact are separable from questions of law, Is from Ought, and the uncovering of the meaning of legal documents from the application of the rules they contain. The distinction promises that it is possible to escape the confines of the law-text, to reach beyond the text and the play of words constituting its interpretation, in order to ground interpretive discourse in factual reality. Yet, the distinction itself is nothing but text, i e, nothing but law.
Drawing on the Kantian tradition, specifically on the writings of Wittgenstein, the author subjects this contradictory structure to criticism. The aim of the study is, however, not to once and for all remove the contradiction. On the contrary, the policy advocated is one of acceptance – mediated through historical awareness. By distancing ourselves from the vision of law and science that is immanent in the distinction under scrutiny, we would be able to come to terms with the hermeneutical side of contract interpretation, and with the inscrutability of the subjective dimension of the contract construct. When interpretation is called for, it is due to the very fact that there is no verifiable intention, yet the conclusions of the interpreter are given in the form of reports on what the parties actually intended. This, the author concludes, does not make the interpretation of contracts unscientific, even though we, being Scandinavian private law lawyers, were fostered to think otherwise.
2008. , 660 p.