Reflections of an Empirical Reader (Or: Could Fleming Be Right This Time?)
31 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 2, 2015
Professor Jim Fleming’s new book, Fidelity to Our Imperfect Constitution: For Moral Readings and Against Originalisms, purports to critique all forms of originalism from the perspective of Professor Fleming’s “moral reading” of, or “philosophic approach” to, the Constitution. I propose a somewhat different opposition: empirical reading versus moral reading. Empirical reading is necessarily originalist, but it focuses directly on the need to ground interpretation in theories of concepts, language, and communication. In this short comment, I outline the research agenda for a theory of empirical reading, explore the extent to which empirical readings and moral readings of the Constitution are compatible (spoiler alert: it’s an empirical question), and situate empirical reading within the development of originalist theory.
Keywords: originalism, constitutional interpretation, interpretative theory
JEL Classification: K19, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation