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A Community Built on WordsThe Constitution in History and Politics$
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H. Jefferson Powell

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226677231

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226677224.001.0001

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2002: Common Ground after Two Centuries

2002: Common Ground after Two Centuries

(p.204) XXII. 2002: Common Ground after Two Centuries
A Community Built on Words
University of Chicago Press

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

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