Political Theory

"The Hermeneutic Implications of Constitutional Amendment"

Howard Schweber University of Wisconsin - Madison


This paper explores the implications of applying a philosophical hermeneutic approach to the interpretation of constitutional texts, and more specifically to the interpretation of an amended constitutional text. My conclusion is that the exploration of this question leads to the conclusion that the fact of amendment (as opposed to mere amendability) has normative consequences for the way we read the constitutional text. Specifically, I will argue that an amended constitution should be read as a “palimpsest”, meaning the reading of the text as a coeherent whole despite the recognition that multiple elements have been added, removed, or overwritten over time. In this way, I will argue, application of the methods of philosophical hermeneutics to constitutional interpretation demonstrates the inadequacy of other familiar approaches such as clause-based textualism or historicism


Thumbnail image of constitutional hermeneutics - Hermeneutics of Constitutional Amendment - APSA paper.pdf


Log in or register with APSA to comment open_in_new
Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy open_in_new – please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here open_in_new .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy open_in_new and Terms of Service open_in_new apply.