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, K39

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Date posted: January 28, 2014  

Suggested Citation

Seidman, Louis Michael, Constitutional Skepticism: A Recovery and Preliminary Evaluation (January 28, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2387031 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2387031

Contact Information

Louis Michael Seidman (Contact Author)
Georgetown University Law Center ( email )
Washington, DC 20057
United States
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