McBride Symposium

The Constitution as Applied Philosophy

I.  Four Weeks. Introduction – The Text; the Context; the Subtext

A. Text: A “preamble”: Understanding a statement of purpose at face value.

B. Text: A review of the mechanics of the Constitution.

Article 1 – Methodology for selecting a legislative body; limited and explicit Legislative Powers; organization/operation/process

Article 2 – Executive powers described; qualifications for office.

Article 3 – Judicial Powers described; qualifications; removal.

C. Embedding Slavery:

Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 (3/5ths “compromise”);

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 (protecting importation of human property);

Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3 (“fugitive slaves”)

D. Specifying and reserving “rights” and asserting reservation of “powers”:

i. Article 1 (certain rights/limits on powers): Ex Post Facto; Bill of Attainder; Writ of Habeas Corpus

ii. “Bill of Rights”

      • 1st Amendment (Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, Petition)

      • 2nd Amendment (weapons)

      • 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th Amendments (rights of accused and convicted)

      • 5th and 7th Amendment (property rights)

      • 9th Amendment: Inherent Rights

      • 10th Amendment: Inherent Powers

      • 13th Amendment: Abolish Slavery

      • 14th Amendment:

        • Define citizenship

        • Recast Federalism

        • Expand definition of rights

        • Address “class” inequality – race

        • Introduce sex inequality (penalties for denying “male inhabitants” the right to vote. 15th Amendment deals with race/voting rights.

E. Colonialism, Conquest, Otherism, Persons as Property

      • European “Exploration” – a rapid descent to ordered chaos, exploitation, murder, theft and extinction. Columbus and Indigenous Persons (Arawaks)

      • Colonial Order: Separate colonies develop de jure systems of “persons as property.”

      • “Independence” – a movement built on disassociation with a Kingdom justified by reference to a ruler’s disregard for “inherent rights” and a “social contract.”

      • Post-revolution de jure slavery (racially based property rights) and conquest (eradication of indigenous sovereignty)

      • How to Make Sense of This: Worldviews. Political Theory; Economic Theory; Theological Theory; Linguistic Theory; Evolutionary Theory; Sociological Theory (race, sex, class); Philosophy.

      • How did Founders Ground This: Philosophy; Moral High Ground.

II. Three weeks: Philosophical Underpinnings

A. Human Nature: Concepts of Plato (PEL Ep 40) Aristotle (PEL Ep 5), Rousseau.

B. Society, Power, Government: Locke (PEL 37, Second Treatise of Government) and Montesquieu (PEL 239 Pt1 and Pt2, Spirit of the Laws). Rousseau, Hobbes, Bentham, Smith.

C. Common Sense, Thomas Paine

III. Three Weeks: Applying the Concepts: 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis – Colorado to the US Supreme Court in 2022 to consider: “Whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.” Sources to SCOTUSblog.

A. Case Materials review: Respondent Brief

B. Interviews with principals: Parties; Counsel for Parties

C. Field Trip – 5 days: Washington DC: (ASK 3/18-26 SPRING BREAK??)

IV. 3 weeks. Student Essay: Propose Thesis based on Course Content. 8-page essay using only the course materials for source, content and argument.

      • Week one (thesis, and outline of argument);

      • Week two – actual draft;

      • Week three – final product. Group Discussion. Essays Grouped (4 groups of 4/5). Students to narrate/discuss a la PEL style (see II methods above)

    Grading Metrics:

      1. Student Preparedness: 20%

      2. In-class Engagement: 20%

      3. Quality/extent of student writings/reflections/synopsis on weekly content: 25%

      4. Final Essay: 35%