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« Jurisprudence as Epistemology in Constitutional Systems | Main | When Is a Presidential Candidate Unqualified? »
Sunday
Sep212008

Teaching Supreme Court Decision Making From an Autonomous Perspective

 Hi Dr. Chen.


I just read your syllabus with interest. I hope you won't mind if I make a suggestion. One of the things that I have found helpful is not to teach Supreme Court decision making through the strictures of the social club. That is, I avoid like the plague saying that there are 3 or 4 theories to decision making (strategic, "legal" and so forth). This statement is illustrative of the problem that political science has had with this subject for a great deal of time now (no sign of it quitting either). Rather, what I say is only that social science as a GROUP has this perspective. It isn't what defines the issue; it's just their contribution. Outside of social science, other people who participate in the activity (legal culture) or who think abstractly about it (philosophy) have had different insights that don't fit well into the political science framework.

Really the best way to teach this issue is to transcend all the contexts you can. Be home to no one. What I do is show a how the issue of supreme judging was (a) birthed  and (b) came to develop. In essence, I teach the history of philosophy of law, scooping up the perspective of lawyers and social scientists along the way.  This way, I don't give the fiction that what is called "empirical analysis" by a particular network is the centerpoint of the discussion (which it surely is not).

But anyway, I'm not criticizing. I just printed the syllabus because I thought it was pretty good. You might want to look at my course to get some ideas about how to further develop a multi-disciplinary (or autonomous) take on the creation and development of supreme judging over time.

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