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Constitutional Illusions and Anchoring Truths: The Touchstone of the Natural Law Paperback – May 31, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (May 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521732085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521732086
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,009,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Who but Hadley Arkes could produce a page-turner on classic constitutional cases? Constitutional Illusions and Anchoring Truths is just that-an intellectually thrilling hunt for truths about man, nature and government encoded in decisions so familiar that we have lost awareness of their deepest meanings."
-Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard University Law School

"With a rare combination of rigor and wit, Professor Arkes sheds new light on the principles animating Supreme Court cases long thought familiar. His penetrating analysis is a welcome challenge to understandings too often taken for granted in the academy and in the courts. This thought-provoking book will captivate anyone concerned about the legal and moral framework of our constitutional system."
-Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit

"For over a generation, Hadley Arkes has been America's most articulate and cogent defender of the limited, but important and indispensable, role of moral reasoning in constitutional adjudication. Constitutional Illusions is his best book yet, a fitting capstone to a most distinguished career. In this new work, Arkes explores with characteristic subtlety such leading Supreme Court cases as Lochner v. New York, Near v. Minnesota, and The Pentagon Papers Case. In each instance, he uncovers the scarcely acknowledged moral structure of the Court's decision, and subjects it to a critical analysis. But the main concern of Illusions is a characteristic feature of today's judicial conservatism, which Arkes rightly attributes to Justice Scalia and Robbert Bork: that constitutional interpretation must steer clear of natural law, or unrestricted moral reasoning. Arkes argues forcefully that natural law has more to do with judicial review than these and other conservatives allow, though still less than most liberals claim that it does."
-Gerard V. Bradley, University of Notre Dame Law School

"With considerable wit and charm, Constitutional Illusions and Anchoring Truths seeks to challenge conventional wisdom as it invites the reader to puzzle anew about old constitutional questions. In his urbane manner, Hadley Arkes may be among the most gifted prose stylists writing today."
-George Thomas, Claremont McKenna College

"Hadley Arkes's Constitutional Illusions and Anchoring Truths clearly illustrates the value, famously emphasized by John Stuart Mill, of attending to important, carefully-considered-if also unconventional, unsettling, or contrarian-arguments. Professor Arkes remains one of the law's most gifted and rewarding prose stylists."
-R. George Wright, Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis

"Hadley Arkes is a well-known scholar, a superb stylist, and perpetual gadfly disturbing the peace of scholars on both the right and the left. Constitutional Illusions and Anchoring Truths continues his project of elaborating a 'natural law' approach to jurisprudence, which argues that implicit in widely-accepted forms of legal reasoning is a commitment to certain principles of reason that transcend the text itself. He develops his argument through discussions of ex post facto laws, the Eleventh Amendment, substantive due process, prior restraint, and the Bob Jones case, and nothing indicates Arkes's skill as a writer and thinker better than his ability to find novel and fascinating perspectives on cases talked about endlessly by others. Constantly thought-provoking, chock-full of original insights, and elegantly written, this book is a powerful reminder to everyone that written law cannot be interpreted without reference to the fundamental moral understandings within which it is embedded."
-Christopher Wolfe, Marquette University

"In his extraordinary book, Arkes's powerful intellect, wit, encyclopedic knowledge, and grace are all on full display as he takes us through a number of landmark cases that we thought we knew - cases whose meaning, we thought, was firmly settled - only to have him show us that we do not know them as we thought we did. He shows us what a difference it makes if we read these cases with more attentiveness to their reasoning and a clearer sense of the logical properties of their propositions. In short, he shows us by his example how we, too, can be freed from the tyranny of understanding landmark cases through the eyes of others."
-Ralph Rossum, Claremont McKenna College

Arkes is a witty and elegant writer, more so than many other philosophers who have addressed these issues..."
-Timothy Sandefur, California Lawyer

"Arkes's treatment is fresh, subtle, concise, careful, edifying, and at times, startlingly funny....The author's profound scholarship is sharply focused, and his skill in handling this deep and extensive knowledge with great verve is remarkable. This book is imbued of insight, common sense, and clear-sighted wisdom. It is a genuine pleasure to read."
-Appellate Practice Journal

"Hadley Arkes... ranks high among America's most elegant and creative constitutional theorists. His latest work, Constitutional Illusions and Anchoring Truths: The Touchstone of the Natural Law, does not disappoint, taking readers through a reexamination and reconsideration of both well-known and obscure constitutional cases to reach surprising and provocative insights."
-Michael D. Ramsey, University of San Diego School of Law, Library of Law and Liberty

"For those familiar with Professor Arkes's formidable body of work, this book will be seen as a culmination of his life-long efforts to seek the truth and defend it.... Be prepared to see old cases and legal concepts in a new light; be prepared to have your thoughts powerfully provoked; be prepared to be amused. Here is a superb book on Constitutional jurisprudence which is charming, unsettling, and memorable." -Denis Owens, Appellate Practice Journal

Book Description

Hadley Arkes reexamines legal cases and concepts long thought settled, such as "prior restraints" and ex post facto laws, finding that their meaning is far less clear than commonly accepted. He proposes that the logic of the natural law provides the key to solving the legal puzzles cast up by a series of mistakes woven into the law.

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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G. Gruber on December 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read the book, and then read the reviews. Looking at the review by Peter P. Fuchs, I went to page 61 (as he invited his readers to do). I conclude his remarks as a reviewer exhibit a one-star mind! Move on, nothing to learn from this one.

I would not argue that Arkes is always an "easy read." But, I never found it to be a "difficult read" either.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By F. Joyce on November 28, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author presents a compelling case for natural law as the foundation of our constitutional law and all that flows from it. The argument I would rate as five stars. His writing style unfortunately is ponderous and badly in need of an editor.
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4 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Peter P. Fuchs on August 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
I have been alighting on some of these "natural law manifestoes" , a phrase recently coined by Richard Garnett, and they are not very lovely flowers. The whole idea of these things is so forced and wrong, and this is just one more of the type I have made fun of and highlighted before. Aquinas is brought in for no discernible scholarly reason. Check out p. 61 of this book. It is astonishing to any fair minded person. These people are operating is some sort of alternate universe where coherence matters not. Simply put, it is a word salad. First the author cites "Aquinas and Lincoln" as if they somehow historically belonged together. But no matter he moves on to Burlamqui, as if quoting him would say something definitive about the age. That is like choosing to analyze the depths of Leibizian thought only by way of Christian Wolff. But no matter, he then slithers into a quote by Hooker, and all that in a few paragraphs. And then suddenly -- I am NOT making this up!!! -- he is suddenly back to the "Church Fathers" ! Huh?? What in the world. He then glosses on the Patristics. How is this word salad even an argument. This is just pure nonsense as an historical argument. And it is only published as purest polemics. But much more interesting is a recent comment by the author online, where he helpfully admits the shadowy nature of this sort of argumentaion in the light of our republic:

"I want to thank our readers for their comments. Mr. JSmitty touches on a sensitive matter, and it may interest him, as well as others among our readers, that we announced, on June 4th, the establishment of a new Center for Natural Law in Washington, D.C., under the Claremont Institute, with my own writings figuring in the curriculum.
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