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How to Be Critical
Chicago-Kent Law Review
  • Stephen M. Feldman

Many opponents of critical legal thought assert that it is easy to be critical but hard to be constructive. From this perspective, critical legal activity is simple, while traditional theory is difficult. Feldman argues otherwise. Hans-Georg Gadamer's emphasis on the role and power of tradition in the hermeneutic process suggests how tradition forcefully constrains us. Our prejudices, derived from our communal traditions, limit what we can understand and perceive. Thus, to perform critical activity proves often to be a formidable challenge. It requires the writer somehow to disrupt the reader's basic and deep-seated assumptions, assumptions that typically emerge from a dominant culture and that have been inculcated and reinforced for much (or all) of the reader's life. Despite the difficulty of doing critical work, Gadamer's persuasive explanation of the hermeneutic process also elucidates how critical activity is possible in the first place. Even so, Gadamer does not attempt to develop any method to guide critical activity. Feldman thus argues that Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics can be combined with Jürgen Habermas's communicative theory or Jacques Derrida's deconstruction to help guide us toward critical activity.

Publication Date
Citation Information
Stephen M. Feldman. "How to Be Critical" (2000) p. 893
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