The Constitution and the Pride of Reason

The Constitution and the Pride of Reason

by Steven Douglas Smith
     
 

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Attempting to realize Plato's vision of a republic governed by "reason," American constitutionalists, according to Steven D. Smith's bold new critical study, have instead reenacted the Tower of Babel myth, producing a constitutional discourse marked by rampant confusion, elaborate sophistry, and thinly veiled authoritarian bullying. How is it that the pursuit of such… See more details below

Overview

Attempting to realize Plato's vision of a republic governed by "reason," American constitutionalists, according to Steven D. Smith's bold new critical study, have instead reenacted the Tower of Babel myth, producing a constitutional discourse marked by rampant confusion, elaborate sophistry, and thinly veiled authoritarian bullying. How is it that the pursuit of such lofty aims by yesterday's framers and today's scholars has left us mired in a constitutional morass?

This timely book ponders that question with the intellectual vigor it deserves. Observing that standard accounts of constitutional law--both the "conservative" and "liberal" varieties--have lost their power to illuminate, The Constitution and the Pride of Reason explores how constitutional law hangs together (and how it falls apart) by investigating the perennial claim that the Constitution and its interpretation somehow embody a commitment to governance by "reason." What does this claim mean, and is it valid? In confronting these queries, Smith offers revealing and iconoclastic assessments of constitutionalists ranging from Madison and Jefferson to Dworkin and Bork. Also detailed in these pages is a provocative overview of the whole constitutional project, from its noble aspirations to its tragic failures.

A truly visionary work that investigates the scholarship, the design, and the history of the quintessential American legal document, this volume also sensibly reflects on the meaning and possibility of the ethical commitment to the "life of reason." It will appeal not only to students of constitutional law but also to those interested in political science, philosophy, and Americanhistory.


"Terrific....This book will make a much more significant and lasting contribution to the field of constitutional theory than many recent books that have received considerable attention."--Larry Alexander, Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego School of Law
"Steven Smith's fascinating and highly readable The Constitution and the Pride of Reason follows the 'trail of reason' through generations of constitutional theorists to expose the hubris at the heart of the Enlightenment precepts undergirding the Constitution. His analysis is comprehensive, lively, and even humorous at points as he exposes the deep faith in reason that has characterized constitutional theorizing since the framers gathered in Philadelphia....This well-written book is not only a chronicle but also a morality tale which ends with a warning to those who would continue to make extravagant claims about the efficacy of reason in constitutional lawmaking and theorizing."--Marci A. Hamilton, Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
"This is not a book for specialists in constitutional doctrine. It draws upon political and moral philosophy, history, constitutional theory, and political science to sustain a thesis which should interest all thinking Americans. It is also refreshingly well written, very clear and precise, often witty."--Gerald V. Bradley, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
"He provides a stimulating assessment of the problems faced by contemporary approaches to the determination of constitutional meanings, particularly in relation to the overall role of reason. His analysis should be useful to constitutional scholars, to persons in other academic fields and to members of the general public who are concered about constitutional interpretation."--The Law and Politics Book Review
"...one of the most insightful, penetrating, and clearheaded exercises in American constitutional theory to come along in years. Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and professionals."--Choice

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195353563
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
01/01/1998
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
0 MB

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