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Living Constitution, Dying Faith: Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence

Recorded on February 24, 2009

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

With the arrival of the new administration, judicial nominations will once again become a central concern for all those interested in the preservation of our constitutional order.  Based upon his newly released book - Living Constitution, Dying Faith: Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence - political scientist and legal historian Bradley C.S. Watson will discuss how the contemporary embrace of the "living" Constitution has arisen from the radical transformation of American political thought.  This transformation, brought about in the late 19th Century by the philosophies of social Darwinism and pragmatism, explains how and why contemporary jurisprudence is so alien to the constitutionalism of the American Founders, and why today's courts rule the way they do.  Today's view - rooted in progressivism - is that we have a Constitution that must be interpreted in light of "historically situated," continually evolving notions of the individual, the state, and society. This modern historical approach has been embraced by the judicial appointees of both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Bradley C. S. Watson holds the Philip M. McKenna Chair in American and Western Political Thought at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where he is also Chairperson of the Department of Political Science.  He has held visiting faculty appointments at Princeton University and Claremont McKenna College.  Additionally, he is Research Associate at the Center for the Study of American Civic Literacy, a project of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and serves on the Boards of Directors of the National Association of Scholars and the Association for the Study of Free Institutions.  Dr. Watson has authored or edited many books, including Civil Rights and the Paradox of Liberal Democracy and Courts and the Culture Wars.  Prior to becoming a political scientist, he practiced as a civil litigation attorney in Vancouver, Canada.  He was educated in Canada, Belgium, and the United States, and holds advanced degrees in law, philosophy, and political science.