Constitutional Commentary








This essay brings the ideas presented in "Our Republican Constitution" by Randy E. Barnett into juxtaposition with two other important ideas in the broad tradition of republican constitutional thought. The first of these ideas is virtue (or human excellence) in the classic or Aristotelian sense of that word. The second idea is liberty as that concept was understood in the republican political thought. Once these two ideas are brought into conversation with the notion of individual sovereignty, we can begin to glimpse a revised vision of republican constitutionalism. Although this vision has much in common with that offered by Professor Barnett, there are differences as well. Part I explicates a theory of republican virtue that draws on Aristotle’s theory of the human excellences as developed in contemporary virtue ethics, arguing that virtue is both a necessary means and the primary end of a republican constitution. Part II turns to the notion of republican liberty (or freedom) — again rooted in classical thought but developed in modern form by Phillip Pettit: republican constitutions should aim to create, protect, and preserve republican liberty. Part III integrates these two ideas into a republican theory of constitutionalism and explains the ways in which republican virtue and republican liberty might provide a normatively attractive constitutional vision that supplements, extends, and enriches the vision offered in Our Republican Constitution.

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