The cognitive dissonance of the new originalism

The new originalism is the latest de riguer theory of constitutional interpretation. No longer concerned with the majoritarianism or judicial restraint that were the hallmarks of Borkian/Bergerian originalism, the new originalists blithely dismiss precedent as having little, if any, constraining force and contend that the countermajoritarian difficulty is of little concern (though they are not alone in this regard). Parallel to this, there is little concern in the new originalist camp with judicial activism. Suffice it to say, it is not a modest theory. The thesis of this short paper is that perhaps that the new originalists suffer from a form of cognitive dissonance. That is to say, one wonders if the new originalists are not dealing in constitutional reality and are instead rationalizing a constitutional vision that does not square with history or the empirical evidence. It is well-documented that originalists on the bench are far from consistent in their application of originalism. Worse yet, when the justices (both liberal and conservative) utilize originalists arguments, ideological cherry-picking inevitably follows. More than that, the new originalists seem uniformly resistant to recognizing that constitutional law does not happen - and cannot happen - in the original public meaning vacuum they advocate. It is more profitable to understand decisions as the result of the historical and cultural zeitgeist the justices find themselves in. In fact, it is ironic that originalism itself is rather plainly a product of the (partial) triumph of the New Right political movement! If I am right about this, I think it is time for the new originalists to explain how their constitutional vision fits into our historical and empirical reality. If they cannot reconcile their theory with this, perhaps it is time that the new originalists admitted their dissonance and developed some intellectual modesty.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,470
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

10 ( #409,296 of 1,925,543 )

Recent downloads (6 months)


How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.