744 Philosophy for Constitutional Lawyers

This seminar will investigate the possibility and promise of substantive reason in constitutional law. Doubts that reason plays any non-instrumental role in constitutional decisions often reflect a broad skepticism that constitutional law can be anything other than political decision-making in disguise. We do not share that skepticism, but we readily concede that many constitutional arguments and opinions are poorly reasoned, and that constitutional lawyers often seem unable to offer a coherent account of what they are doing, or what constitutional decision-making is or ought to be, that doesn't collapse into a species of political choice.

Our goal is to explore some of the resources that contemporary philosophy may offer constitutional lawyers in the effort to understand and practice constitutional law as a distinct and coherent form of thought and decision.
Attention will be paid to the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and Ludwig Wittgenstein, among others.

Students will be expected to participate actively in class discussion and to prepare a seminar paper, which can be written to satisfy the upper-level writing requirement.

Course Areas of Practice
Evaluation Methods
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper(s), 10-15 pages
  • Class participation
Degree Requirements
Course Type
  • Lecture
Learning Outcomes
  • Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law
  • Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context

*Please note that this information is for planning purposes only, and should not be relied upon for the schedule for a given semester. Faculty leaves and sabbaticals, as well as other curriculum considerations, will sometimes affect when a course may be offered.