Constitutional Cases and the Four Cardinal Virtues

28 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2020 Last revised: 4 Sep 2020

See all articles by R. George Wright

R. George Wright

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Date Written: March 11, 2012


Judges typically decide constitutional cases by referring to one or more legal precedents, rules, tests, principles, doctrines, or policies. This Article recommends supplementing this standard approach with fully legitimate and appropriate attention to what many cultures have long recognized as the four basic cardinal virtues of practical wisdom or reasonable prudence, courage or fortitude, temperance or reasonable self-restraint, and justice as the disposition to give everyone their due.

The Article illustrates the legitimacy and usefulness of this supplementary approach, with judicial attention being paid either to government actors or to some broader public, in a range of important constitutional cases.

Part of the justification for this Article’s recommended approach is drawn directly from reflection on the case law, but the Article also draws upon philosophical discussions of the basic virtues from many cultures in order to address a number of possible critical concerns.

Suggested Citation

Wright, R. George, Constitutional Cases and the Four Cardinal Virtues (March 11, 2012). Cleveland State Law Review 60 p. 195, Available at SSRN: or

R. George Wright (Contact Author)

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law ( email )

530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States

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