America and Enlightenment Constitutionalism (Studies of the by Johnathan O'Neill, Gary L. McDowell

By Johnathan O'Neill, Gary L. McDowell

The United States and Enlightenment Constitutionalism indicates intimately the Enlightenment foundation of the U.S. structure. It presents vibrant research of ways the Enlightenment's uncomplicated rules have been reformulated within the context of the US. it really is fairly profitable in bringing out the competing lines of Enlightenment inspiration and of articulating the most important Enlightenment suggestions of public opinion, equality, public cause, legislature and judiciary, revolution, legislation, and the folk of their American context. the gathering is well timed given modern debates among republicans and liberals approximately constitutional interpretation that are addressed all through.

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Does the culture in which lawyers and scholars—and citizens—live today display similar characteristics of exhaustion? I believe we can see in the public discourse advocated by modern partisans of Enlightenment a sort of degenerative dynamic that seems constituted to render that discourse incapable of speaking to us on any deep level or in any convincing way. ”104 It is a symptom of this “thinness,” I think, that even secular theorists sometimes resort to a religious vocabulary in order to convey their most profound commitments.

The classical Enlightenment, as we have seen, was motivated by a desire to live in accordance with Truth and by a confidence (perhaps reflecting the prevailing providential worldview) that discussion would naturally lead human beings in the direction of Truth. Having effectively abandoned those premises and reoriented the political task toward civility and cooperation, the modern Enlightenment has little reason to be enthused about the specific practical commitment to free expression. There is nothing surprising about this conclusion.

As discussed, the so-called “secularism” of the classical Enlightenment had seemed compatible with a providential worldview, but this partnership dissolved as, among other things, modern science offered a new vision of how the universe is constituted. Though it now appears that secularization is neither as uniform nor as inexorable as it once seemed,48 it still dominates some sectors of the culture, especially the academy (which of course imagines itself to be the main bastion of Enlightenment)49; and one consequence of that change has been that in those sectors the belief in a divinely established normative order, widely shared in the eighteenth century, has by now come to seem at best highly sectarian.

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