Universal Rights and the Constitution

By Stephen A. Simon

Subjects: Political Science, American Government, Legal Studies
Series: SUNY series in American Constitutionalism
Paperback : 9781438451862, 196 pages, January 2015
Hardcover : 9781438451855, 196 pages, April 2014

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Table of contents

1. Introduction
2. Universal Arguments in American Constitutionalism
3. Universal Arguments in Constitutional Law
4. Universal Arguments in Constitutional Theory
5. A Role for Universal Arguments
6. Conclusion: Universal Rights Discourse

Innovative examination of the tensions between universal and more uniquely American definitions of cherished rights.


Are constitutional rights based exclusively in uniquely American considerations, or are they based at least in part on principles that transcend the boundaries of any particular country, such as the requirements of freedom or dignity? By viewing constitutional law through the prism of this fundamental question, Universal Rights and the Constitution exposes an overlooked difficulty with opinions rendered by the Supreme Court, namely, an inherent ambiguity about the kinds of arguments that count in constitutional interpretation, which weakens the foundations of our most cherished rights.

Rejecting current debates over constitutional interpretation as flawed, Stephen A. Simon offers an innovative framework designed to provide clearer foundations for rights interpretations while preserving a meaningful but limited role for universal arguments. He reveals the vital connections among contemporary debates over such matters as the right to privacy, the constitutionality of the death penalty, and the role of foreign law in constitutional interpretation.

Stephen A. Simon is Associate Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law at the University of Richmond.


"…a fascinating new book … This volume, one of the latest in the esteemed SUNY series in American Constitutionalism, concerns the crucial question of how to interpret the Constitution in cases where individual rights are at stake. Simon's work is original, eclectic, well argued, and thoroughly researched. His book will be of great interest to scholars and nicely repays a careful reading. " — Law and Politics Book Review

"Well written, clearly organized, and informative. " — CHOICE