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This work is a contribution to a symposium Philosophical Hermeneutics and Critical Legal Theory The central question for this essay is the following Given the nature of critical activity and theory how can one be critical My thesis is that HansGeorg Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics when combined with Jurgen Habermass communicative or discourse theory or Jacques Derridas deconstruction can guide us toward critical activity The article summarizes philosophical hermeneutics and examines the relationship between Gadamers hermeneutics and critical legal activity Philosophical hermeneutics explains on the one hand how we can come to understand critical concepts and on the other hand how being critical can be a difficult task It then explores first how Habermass discourse theory and second how Derridas deconstruction can supplement philosophical hermeneutics to help engender critical activity

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