Friday, June 13, 2008

And Now For Something Completely the Same

Okay, so I know I said I wouldn't be blogging again until Monday, but I just came across Larry Solum's post responding to my post on what makes the Constitution law, and what its content consists in. Solum has persuaded me that I need to stop relying on hearsay reports of his views and read his article for myself. Fair enough, but for now I just want to narrow the scope of our disagreement.

Solum and I both endorse Hartian positivism. I say that the original 1789/1791 understanding of the Constitution could be important in 10,000 years if the people who accept the Constitution in 12,008 think that the original understanding is relevant. Solum says the same thing. He also notes, correctly, that my original post used both normative and descriptive language, although in the comments, I clarified that my main point was descriptive. I certainly can't give Solum a hard time for failing to read the comments on my blog post when I haven't read his article!

I'm tempted to say something further here about a purely linguistic theory of constitutional meaning, but only with the gigantic caveat that I must read Solum's full account first. Before doing so, all I'll say here is that I don't see how a good Hartian can have any priors about language. If, in 12,008, the practice of the relevant interpretive community (either judges or government officials or perhaps even the People more broadly, depending on how one reads Hart), is to regard the Constitution as law, and to regard the meaning of that law as changing over time rather than fixed, then a good Hartian soft positivist will have to say that the meaning of the Constitution changes over time. So if---in 12,008 or today---that is the practice, then what Solum calls "the fixation thesis" is false. The Constitution's meaning will not have been fixed.

From what I understand of Solum's argument, the workaround here is to say that the meaning is fixed, but that the fixed meaning itself is unclear over an important range of cases (although clear in some nontrivial number of cases). One difficulty I have with this claim is that I don't see how even it can be a linguistic theory rather than at least partly a theory of law. For example, if we have a social practice of treating ALL constitutional meaning as potentially up for grabs, then, as a legal matter, all constitutional meaning is potentially up for grabs, regardless of what one might think about language otherwise. Perhaps it's not plausible to say that we have (or ever will have) a practice of treating all constitutional meaning as potentially up for grabs, but if so, that's a fact about legal practice, not just language.

Quite possibly I'm missing some important piece of the argument. I'll read Solum and report back in a few weeks, after the end-of-Supreme-Court-Term excitement has died down.

Posted by Mike Dorf


  1. I think a very important part of Solum's argument connecting original meaning to current practice (at pages 8 and 132) is his argument from Article VI that current officeholders accept "this Constitution" as law, and that being bound by "this Constitution" means being bound by the historic semantic content of the Constitution. I think Solum's assumption about the meaning of "this Constitution" in Article VI is right, though it requires a bit more argument than he gives. I'm very curious what you'd say about Article VI, though.

  2. One difficulty I have with this claim is that I don't see how even it can be a linguistic theory rather than at least partly a theory of law. For example, if we have a social practice of treating ALL constitutional meaning as potentially up for grabs, then, as a legal matter, all constitutional meaning is potentially up for grabs, regardless of what one might think about language otherwise.

    Perhaps he thinks social practices having to do with the meanings of words are constrained (normatively speaking) by the way he thinks language works, regardless of whether you choose to call those practices "linguistic" or "legal" or something else entirely. But if this is right, then the only way to justify your view is to deny that people interpreting the Constitution are intepreting the meaning of English words, which I'm sure you'd agree is absurd.

  3. chris: I think the "this Constitution" claim is not persuasive. If we take this idea seriously, then a government official who swears fealty to the Constitution is not bound by nonoriginalist decisions of the Supreme Court. I suppose one could say that there is a separate (prudential?) duty to abide by Supreme Court precedents, but there could be cases in which one could not simultaneously obey the original meaning and the Supreme Court's interpretation (if, e.g., original meaning requires X but Supreme Court precedent forbids X). One could still say go with original meaning in this case, on the "departmentalist" view of Jefferson, Lincoln and Meese, but given the historical debate over that position, it's hard to see how departmentalism just falls out of a view of language.

    carl: I agree that it's possible to have a view in which linguistic conventions trump social ones. But there is the brute fact that the actual Rule of Recognition in the U.S. appears to accord significance to something like the "living" Constitution.

  4. I don't think the reducio-ad-departmentalism argument is a good rejoinder to the Article VI argument.

    First, we need to distinguish a theory about how constitutional interpretation should proceed from a view about when it should proceed. The issue for Marbury is whether courts have the authority to decide for themselves what the Constitution means, legislative determinations notwithstanding; the issue for departmentalism is whether other branches have the same power, judicial determinations notwithstanding. But those issues are distinct from the question about how interpretation should proceed. I think it's consistent with Article VI to say that sometimes it's not our place to interpret the Constitution for ourselves (e.g., if we're lower executive branch officials). But that doesn't mean that those officials who do have occasion to interpret the Constitution for themselves can ignore what "this Constitution" means. The oath argument gives at least some support to Marbury and to departmentalism, but it gives much stronger support to the view that proper interpretation is guided by "this Constitution."

    Second, the reducio argument doesn't depend on anything special about originalism. Any theory of the Constitution that allows for even the theoretical possibility of courts acting unconstitutionally faces it. Indeed, the argument would work just as well even if Article VI were completely explicit in establishing originalist textualsm--say, if it said, "All officials shall be bound to obey the meaning expressed by the language of this Constitution at the time of the framing." But surely if we had such a supremacy clause, the mere puzzle about what to do were a court to act unconstitutionally wouldn’t give us warrant for ignoring the original meaning. Likewise if the best understanding of "this Constitution" is as a reference to the historically-situated text (though to show this, of course, as I say above, we’d have to do more work).

  5. I agree that it's possible to have a view in which linguistic conventions trump social ones. But there is the brute fact that the actual Rule of Recognition in the U.S. appears to accord significance to something like the "living" Constitution.

    What I fail to see is why you think this point makes Solum's view a move within legal theory (rather than a semantic argument that has implications for legal theory).

    His point, as far as I can tell, is that semantic or interpretive norms must be consistent with the best view about how language works. To object to the living constitution on these grounds is not to involve oneself in a legal dispute (even if the move is motivated by legal ideology) and cannot be defeated simply by appeal to the fact that judges happen to decide cases in accordance with it. Instead, you need to engage his view at the level of semantics and show that it involves a fundamental misunderstanding of how language works (or explain why legal intepretation is immune from criticism on grounds that it is inconsistent with our views about meaning in general, I guess).

  6. As long as I'm being a math nitpick, my comment should say reductio, not reducio. Don't know what got into me.

  7. Anonymous7:22 AM



    A片,色情,成人,做愛,情色文學,A片下載,色情遊戲,色情影片,色情聊天室,情色電影,免費視訊,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊聊天室,一葉情貼圖片區,情色,情色視訊,免費成人影片,視訊交友,視訊聊天,視訊聊天室,言情小說,愛情小說,AIO,AV片,A漫,av dvd,聊天室,自拍,情色論壇,視訊美女,AV成人網,色情A片,SEX





  8. Anonymous8:58 AM



  9. Anonymous7:20 AM

    免費A片, ut聊天室, AV女優, 美女視訊, 免費成人影片, 成人論壇, 情色交友, 免費AV, 線上a片, 日本美女寫真集, 同志聊天室, 聊天室交友, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 色情網站, 辣妹視訊, 美女交友, 微風成人區, 色美媚部落格, 色情影片, 成人影片, 成人網站, 免費A片, 上班族聊天室, A片,H漫, 18成人, a漫, av dvd, 一夜情聊天室, 微風成人, 成人圖片, 成人漫畫, 情色網, 日本A片, 免費A片下載, 性愛, 成人交友, 嘟嘟成人網, 嘟嘟成人網, 成人貼圖, 成人電影, 成人, 中部人聊天室, 080中部人聊天室, 成人貼圖, 成人小說, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 免費成人影片, 成人遊戲, 微風成人, 愛情公寓, 成人電影, A片, 情色, 情色貼圖, 情色文學, 做愛, 成人遊戲, 成人影城, 色情聊天室, 色情小說, 一葉情貼圖片區, 情色小說, 色情, 寄情築園小遊戲, 色情遊戲, 成人網站, 麗的色遊戲, 色情網站, 成人論壇, 情色視訊, 情色電影, aio交友愛情館, 言情小說, 愛情小說, 色情A片, 情色論壇, 自拍, 癡漢, , 俱樂部, 豆豆聊天室, 聊天室, 色情影片, 視訊聊天室, 免費視訊聊天, 免費視訊, 視訊交友90739 情人視訊網影音視訊聊天室 免費視訊聊天室 視訊聊天 視訊交友 美女視訊 視訊美女 視訊 免費視訊 免費視訊聊天 視訊聊天室 辣妹視訊 一夜情 色情a片 aio交友愛情館 情色電影 情色視訊 色情遊戲 色情 情色小說 一葉情貼圖片區 色情小說 色情聊天室 情色交友 成人論壇 成人網站 色情網站 情色論壇 小高聊天室 女同志聊天室 6K聊天室 080苗栗人聊天室 080聊天室 聊天室尋夢園 UT男同志聊天室 男同志聊天室 尋夢園聊天室 UT聊天室 聊天室 豆豆聊天室 A片 成人電影 成人貼圖 嘟嘟成人網 美女交友 本土自拍 成人交友 成人影片

  10. Anonymous8:06 AM

    野球・バッティング・上達野球・バッティング・講座野球・バッティング・練習野球・打撃・フォーム野球・練習・ネット野球・練習法野球・練習・方法野球・練習・メニュー野球・練習方法・バッティング野球・練習・バッティング野球・素振り・バット野球・教本野球・スイング野球・スイング・基本野球・スイング・フォーム野球・スイング・動画野球・スイング・写真野球・スイング・軌道野球・レベルスイング野球・アッパースイング野球・バッティング・フォームバッティング・理論バッティング・練習バッティング・フォームバッティングとはバッティング・コツバッティング・基本バッティング・指導バッティング・練習・通販バッティング・講座バッティング・上達バッティング・フォーム・連続写真打撃・理論打撃・練習打撃・フォーム・動画打撃・上達素振りの仕方ダウンスイング・野球アッパースイング 矯正スイングスピード 野球少年野球 指導少年野球 練習方法少年野球 バッティング 指導少年野球 コーチ中学 野球 練習ホームランバッターになる方法小学生 野球 トレーニング子供 野球 指導中学 野球 指導小学生 野球 指導学童野球 練習方法野球 指導 DVD野球 指導 動画高校野球 強打者年金                       Jメールテクニック
    メール恋愛術メール口説き方メール口説くメール女友達メール誘いメール誘い方愛情表現メール恋愛メールテクニック携帯メールテクニックケータイ メルテク恋愛メール術ケータイメール術携帯メール術恋メール術もてるメール術モテメール術脈ありメール恋愛脈ありメール脈あり脈なしメール女脈ありメールもてる方法モテル方法モテる方法モテル男モテる男条件モテる男の髪型モテる男のファッション恋愛モテる男もてる男もてる男の条件もてる男の性格もてる男の要素もてる男のファッションもてる秘訣モテる秘訣モテる話術もてる話術もてたいモテたいもてるしぐさ・心理恋愛指南書恋愛ツール恋愛の秘訣恋愛のきっかけ恋愛成就恋愛運恋愛運アップ恋愛運up恋愛誘い方恋愛付き合うきっかけ恋愛 付き合うまでの期間恋愛 付き合うまで会話術 恋愛コールドリーディング 恋愛女の本音 恋愛

  11. Anonymous12:42 AM

    I am so happy to get some last chaos gold and the lastchaos gold is given by my close friend who tells me that the lastchaos money is the basis to enter into the game. Therefore, I should buy last chaos gold with the spare money and I gain some cheap lastchaos gold from other players.

  12. Anonymous8:27 AM .
    [url=]puma shoes[/url]
    [url=]chaussures puma[/url]
    [url=]nike air max ltd[/url]

  13. Anonymous11:05 PM

    艾葳酒店經紀公司提供專業的酒店經紀, 飯局小姐,領檯人員,領台,傳播妹,或者想要到台北酒店林森北路酒店,私人招待所,或者八大行業酒店PT,酒店公關,酒店兼職,想去酒店上班, 日式酒店,制服酒店,ktv酒店,禮服店,整天穿得水水漂漂的禮服酒店,鋼琴酒吧酒店領檯,酒店小姐,公關小姐??,還是想去制服店上班小姐,水水們如果想要擁有打工工作、晚上兼差工作兼差打工假日兼職兼職工作學生兼差兼差打工兼差日領工作晚上兼差工作酒店工作酒店上班酒店打工兼職兼差兼差工作酒店上班等,想了解酒店相關工作特種行業內容,想找打工假日兼職兼差打工、或晚班兼職想擁有快速賺錢又有保障的工作嗎???又可以現領請找專業又有保障的艾葳酒店經紀公司!




Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.