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

Document Type


Publication Date



This Article is an example of its thesis. What I do with the texts that I have gathered in support of my argument reveals the ontological basis of legal interpretation. What follows is not only an exposition of what happens when a reader interprets legal texts, but also an actual case of a reader seeking to solve a legal problem by interpreting both legal and non-legal texts. I believe that this strategy of searching for the truth of legal hermeneutics by way of exegesis is appropriate: if my thesis is to be taken seriously, it must exemplify the hermeneutical activity that I am attempting to explain. This Article is also a contradiction of its thesis. The ontological basis of legal hermeneutics is obscured by the second-order account that follows. That is, my hermeneutical activity is conceptualized into a hermeneutical theory; action is replaced by contemplation, reality by abstraction. I do not believe, however, that abstraction results from simply talking about action, because talking in particular, and the development and use of language in general, are also activities. Instead, abstraction results from thinking about action. More precisely, abstraction is thinking about action. This Article is an abstraction from the underlying hermeneutical activity, despite my attempts to write an article that embodied the act of interpretation without explaining my thoughts on interpretation.

Unfortunately, the strictures of academia conspire against those who prefer not to be abstract. 2 It is my hope that the exemplificative nature of this Article is sufficiently strong to counteract the abstract " noise " of my theoretical argument. If so, then you, the reader, might see in these pages how much fun I had " playing" this Article, in addition to benefiting from your own playful encounter with the printed residue of what was once mine .

Publication Title

B.U. L. Rev.



First Page