Instructor(s): Timothy Endicott

Course Location: Please see the "Intensive Course Schedule" under Schedules and Timetables (

This course is being offered exclusively remotely. This course will meet via audio-visual conference. To enrol in this course all students must meet or exceed the tech requirements for enrolment in University of Toronto courses, which can be found here [].

Note: Attendance at intensive courses is mandatory for the duration of the course.

An introduction to the philosophy of interpretation and to the role of interpretation in law and adjudication. We will start with a historical introduction to the distinction between interpretive and equitable reasoning in the common law tradition. The English judges’ understanding of legal interpretation underwent a double inversion as they began in the sixteenth century to assert jurisdiction to interpret statutes, and to disavow their medieval jurisdiction to create exceptions on grounds of equity to the requirements of statutes. In the modern approach, judges see the interpretation of statutes as central to their role, and they do not picture themselves as exercising an equitable jurisdiction to depart from statutes.

Does the modern approach disguise departures from the law by calling them ‘interpretations’, as Jeremy Bentham thought? Does the widely-accepted role of judges as interpreters conceal the exercise of dispensing and reforming powers? We will address those questions through particular problems in the interpretation of statutes and constitutions, and we will ask whether common law reasoning is best seen as a form of interpretation. Finally, we will ask whether law ought to be understood as a practice that empowers public authorities and private actors to make law by communicative acts (which may or may not need interpretation, depending on the issues at stake in particular circumstances), or whether law is best understood as an inherently interpretive practice.

Students will be evaluated based on a final paper of 2500 to 3000 words. Papers must be delivered to the Records Office by 4:00 p.m. on February 1, 2021.
Academic year
2020 - 2021

At a Glance

Second Term



20 JD


Via AV Conference:

Monday, January 4, 2020: 2:00 - 4:30 pm
Tuesday, January 5, 2020: 2:00 - 4:30 pm
Wednesday, January 6, 2020: 2:00 - 4:30 pm
Thursday, January 7, 2020: 2:00 - 4:30 pm
Friday, January 8, 2020: 2:00 - 4:00 pm