The Ontological Basis of Legal Hermeneutics: A Proposed Model of Inquiry Based on the Work of Gadamer, Habermas, and Ricoeur

Francis J. Mootz III, University of Nevda, Las Vegas -- William S. Boyd School of Law


This paper provides a detailed account of Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics and its relationship to contemporary problems in legal theory. I first demonstrate that Gadamer's approach charts a course between the inflated claims of critical legal studies and the subjectivism of the law and literature movement. I then interrogate the hermeneutical approach from the perspective of Habermas's critical theory. I conclude that Ricoeur's intervention in the Gadamer-Habermas debate helps significantly to draw out the critical elements of Gadamer's work. I conclude by developing new model of legal practice and theory grounded in the textuality of law.