Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Responding to Nietzsche: The Constructive Power of Destruktion

By III Francis J. Mootz


As a student of Hans-Georg Gadamer, and later a translator and important commentator on Gadamer’s philosophy, P. Christopher Smith is widely acknowledged to be a leading hermeneutical philosopher. In a series of works, Smith has argued that Gadamer provides an important corrective to Nietzsche’s caustic critical challenges, but that Gadamer’s hermeneutics has no relevance for legal theory because law is just the manifestation of will to power. In this paper I argue that Smith misunderstands the nature of legal practice. Starting with a re-reading of the debate between Gadamer and Jacques Derrida about the legacy of Nietzsche’s philosophy, I argue that Gadamer responds to Nietzsche’s challenge in a manner that is exemplified in the critical dimensions of legal practice. Using the example of family law that Smith offers, I contend that Smith underestimates the critical and interpretive elements inherent in legal practice and captured in Gadamer’s philosophy. I conclude that Gadamer offers a persuasive answer to Nietzsche’s challenge

Topics: hermeneutics, critical theory, deconstruction, Heidegger, Gadamer, Derrida, P. Christopher Smith, Family Law, Jurisprudence, Legal History
Publisher: Scholarly Commons @ UNLV Law
Year: 2007
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1985). Debunking this distinction has been one of the lasting contributions of the critical legal studies movement and has been particularly emphasized by feminist scholars. Examples include Frances E. Olsen, ‘‘The Myth of State Intervention in the Family,’’
  2. (1995). Gadamer’s notion of interpretive Destruktion incorporates critical insight. Law is neither a purely mechanical and deductive exercise, nor is it just a clash of power. The decision in
  3. (1982). Law as Literature,’’ doi
  4. (2003). Moving from Popular Stereotypes to Therapeutic Jurisprudence,’’ Family Court Review, doi
  5. (2010). Responding to Nietzsche 143 at
  6. (2010). Responding to Nietzsche 145 at
  7. (2010). Responding to Nietzsche 151 at
  8. (2000). Understanding Heidegger’s Destruktion of Metaphysics,’’ doi
  9. (1986). Violence and the Word,’’ Yale Law doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.