2002: Common Ground after Two Centuries

in A Community Built on Words

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780226677231
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226677224 | DOI:
2002: Common Ground after Two Centuries

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  • Constitutional and Administrative Law


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A few ago, the distinguished philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre argued that American constitutional law is empty at its center. In any contentious constitutional case, he wrote, the Supreme Court “play[s] the role of a peace-making or truce-keeping body by negotiating its way through an impasse of conflict, not by invoking our society's shared moral first principles. For our society as a whole has none.” MacIntyre's assertion begs the question of what relationship can or ought to exist between moral first principles and the principles embodied in a constitution of government; but even with respect to constitutional law itself, MacIntyre's accusation is in error. The United States does have a set of shared constitutional first principles. This chapter attempts to identify them, even if admittedly at a very high level of generality and with no thought of exclusivity.

Keywords: constitutional law; constitutional case; Supreme Court; moral first principles; Alasdair MacIntyre; constitutional first principles

Chapter.  3106 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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