A Constitution of Many Minds: Why the Founding Document Doesn't Mean What It Meant Before

Front Cover
Princeton University Press, Jan 19, 2009 - Law - 240 pages
1 Review

The future of the U.S. Supreme Court hangs in the balance like never before. Will conservatives or liberals succeed in remaking the court in their own image? In A Constitution of Many Minds, acclaimed law scholar Cass Sunstein proposes a bold new way of interpreting the Constitution, one that respects the Constitution's text and history but also refuses to view the document as frozen in time.

Exploring hot-button issues ranging from presidential power to same-sex relations to gun rights, Sunstein shows how the meaning of the Constitution is reestablished in every generation as new social commitments and ideas compel us to reassess our fundamental beliefs. He focuses on three approaches to the Constitution--traditionalism, which grounds the document's meaning in long-standing social practices, not necessarily in the views of the founding generation; populism, which insists that judges should respect contemporary public opinion; and cosmopolitanism, which looks at how foreign courts address constitutional questions, and which suggests that the meaning of the Constitution turns on what other nations do.

Sunstein demonstrates that in all three contexts a "many minds" argument is at work--put simply, better decisions result when many points of view are considered. He makes sense of the intense debates surrounding these approaches, revealing their strengths and weaknesses, and sketches the contexts in which each provides a legitimate basis for interpreting the Constitution today.

This book illuminates the underpinnings of constitutionalism itself, and shows that ours is indeed a Constitution, not of any particular generation, but of many minds.


What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - JBD1 - LibraryThing

Sunstein, a Harvard law professor, examines various frameworks of constitutional interpretation (traditionalism, populism, cosmopolitanism) using what he calls a 'many minds' approach, highlighting ... Read full review

A constitution of many minds: why the founding document doesn't mean what it meant before

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Sunstein (Harvard Law Sch.; Worst-Case Scenarios), currently information and regulatory affairs administrator in the Obama adminstration, engages us in a conversation about the enduring issues of ... Read full review


There Is Nothing That Interpretation Just Is
Burkean Minimalism
Rationalists vs Burkeans
Due Process Traditionalism
Backlashs Travels 125
Public Opinion and Social Consequences
Public Opinion and Judicial Humility
What Other Nations Do

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Cass R. Sunstein is a law professor at Harvard Law School and is the most cited law professor in the United States.

Bibliographic information