The Honorable Stephen Breyer


Our Democratic Constitution

The Honorable Stephen Breyer

Madison Lecture

In this James Madison Lecture, Justice Breyer presents an approach to constitutional interpretation that places considerable weight upon the consequences of judicial decisionmaking. Eschewing an approach that relies solely on language, history, tradition, and precedent, Justice Breyer uses five contemporary examples to demonstrate how his concept of “consequential” constitutional interpretation might work in practice. Justice Breyer argues that this approach is more faithful to the principles that animated our Founding Fathers, encourages greater public participation in our democratic government, and would create a constitutional system that better promotes governmental solutions consistent with community needs and individual dignity.

Professor Ronald Dworkin

Jeremy Waldron, Lewis A. Kornhauser, The Honorable Stephen Breyer, T.M. Scanlon, Rebecca L. Brown, Liam Murphy, Robert B. Silvers, Thomas Nagel

Last year, the NYU community lost an intellectual giant in Professor Ronald Dworkin. The school and the Law Review joined together to honor Professor Dworkin’s writings, ideas, and of course, his legendary colloquia. Academics, philosophers, and judges gathered to pay tribute. In the pages that follow, we proudly publish written versions of those tributes.1 The ceremony closed with a short video clip of one of Professor Dworkin’s last speeches, titled Einstein’s Worship. His words provide a fitting introduction:

“We emphasize—we should emphasize—our responsibility, a responsibility shared by theists and atheists alike, a responsibility that we have in virtue of our humanity to think about these issues, to reject the skeptical conclusion that it’s just a matter of what we think and therefore we don’t have to think. We need to test our convictions. Our convictions must be coherent. They must be authentic; we must come to feel them as our convictions. But when they survive that test of responsibility, they’ve also survived any philosophical challenge that can be made. In that case, you burnish your convictions, you test your convictions, and what you then believe, you better believe it. That’s what I have to say about the meaning of life. Tomorrow: the universe.”