Dworkin's 'Originalism': The Role of Intentions in Constitutional Interpretation

Review of Politics, Vol. 62, Spring 2000

Posted: 14 Nov 2000

See all articles by Keith E. Whittington

Keith E. Whittington

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Abstract

Ronald Dworkin has criticized traditional theories of constitutional original intent by arguing that the constitutional text embodies multiple layers of intention. Abstract principles are among these layers of constitutional intent, and those principles should be the primary focus of a method of constitutional interpretation concerned with fidelity to the Constitution and the intentions of the Founders. This article argues that Dworkin's reconceptualization of originalism is theoretically flawed. It may be possible to construct a normative theory requiring that the judiciary always enforce abstract constitutional principles in accord with current substantive ideals. Such a theory, however, cannot be reconciled with or be required by an originalist interpretive method primarily committed to fidelity to founding intent.

Note: This is a description of the paper and not the actual abstract.

JEL Classification: K1

Suggested Citation

Whittington, Keith E., Dworkin's 'Originalism': The Role of Intentions in Constitutional Interpretation. Review of Politics, Vol. 62, Spring 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=224622

Keith E. Whittington (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States
609-258-3453 (Phone)
609-258-1110 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~kewhitt/

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