Time and Timelessness in Constitutional Thought
18 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2020
Date Written: December 6, 2020
This paper considers the character of moral peoplehood, our life as a people, and the rules and principles through which that life is expressed. In so far as those rules and principles take legal form, as determining the ground rules of association and denoting political rights and duties, this moral community is also a jural community. The paper engages with Bernard Williams’s thought with a view to resolving the tension between two conceptions of the constitution that differ in their account of the relationship between norms and time. Williams offers the prospect of a non-Kantian liberalism that grows out of the habits and minds of persons but which does not collapse into relativism. I argue that Williams’s account of moral personhood devotes insufficient attention to the dynamics of moral deliberation, essential to the growth of personhood. I argue that Williams’s account of moral peoplehood is similarly deficient in that it overlooks the role constitutional deliberation plays in constructing the jural community. Plural politics requires accepted ground rules and the sense that we are a unity of plural associates, and this is what constitutional deliberation aims to provide.
Keywords: Bernard Williams, moral peoplehood, jural community, moral sentiments, constitutional deliberation, legitimacy
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