Michele Ubertone

How Not to Confuse Questions of Fact and Questions of Law

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: questions of law, questions of fact; ambiguity; pragmatic presuppositions; questions of application

This article supports the thesis that the distinction between questions of fact and questions of law is not at all blurred, as some authors have argued. Although same interrogative sentences can be interpreted both as questions of fact and as questions of law, this does not depend on the vagueness of the distinction between the two types of questions. Rather, it depends on the ambiguity of those sentences. In particular, what Timothy Endicott calls «questions of application» are systematically ambiguous: they are always susceptible to both a de facto and a de iure interpretation. This article attempts to clarify the difference between these two interpretations on the basis of Robert Stalnaker’s notion of pragmatic presupposition. Having drawn this distinction, it seeks to show that the failure to recognise the aforementioned ambiguity can lead to two types of errors in legal reasoning: a factualistic error, which consists in treating questions of law as if they were questions of fact, and a legalistic error, which consists in treating questions of fact as if they were questions of law

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