Constitutional Skepticism: A Recovery and Preliminary Evaluation
Louis Michael Seidman
Georgetown University Law Center
January 28, 2014
The aim of this article is to recover and reevaluate the American tradition of constitutional skepticism. Part I consists of a brief history of skepticism running from before the founding to the modern period. My aim here is not to provide anything like a complete description of the historical actors, texts, and events that I discuss. Instead, I link together familiar episodes and arguments that stretch across our history so as to demonstrate that they are part of a common narrative that has been crucial to our self-identity. Part II disentangles the various strands of skeptical argument. I argue that the various strands share a common core. At base, all forms of constitutional skepticism rest on doubts about whether moral and political disagreement can be bridged by a legal text. Those doubts, in turn, are grounded on a rejection of global moral skepticism and on deep strands of American thought that emphasize the possibility of moral knowledge. In Part III, I very briefly suggest some preliminary conclusions about how we should view constitutional skepticism. I argue that there are reasons to think that a dose constitutional skepticism might mitigate some of our current political dysfunction.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 123
Keywords: skepticism, constitution, history
JEL Classification: K00, K30, K39working papers series
Date posted: January 28, 2014
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