Dworkin, Ronald Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Dworkin defended liberal jurisprudence and proposed that Supreme Court justices and lower court judges use critical moral judgment in interpreting the Constitution.

A self-described liberal scholar, Dworkin argued for expansive judicial review to advance causes such as sexual freedom, legal abortion, and euthanasia. He proposed a moral reading of the Constitution according to which judges, subject to certain constraints, bring critical moral judgment to bear in determining the meaning of such terms as the free speech clause of the First Amendment and the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

According to Dworkin, rights to pornography, abortion, and assisted suicide, for example, follow from a basic moral obligation of government to treat persons with equal concern and respect. In addition, courts are the forum of principle in which rights that ought not to be left to the vicissitudes of power politics can be protected by independent judges.

Dworkin’s critics argued that laws restricting pornography or forbidding abortion and assisted suicide deny no one equal concern and respect. Moreover, they rejected Dworkin’s implicit denial that legislatures are proper forums of principle for resolving controversial moral issues. Finally, they insisted that constitutional provisions such as those concerning freedom of speech and due process of law, when understood in textual and historical context, have a high degree of determinate legal meaning and are not generalities.Dworkin, Ronald


Bill of Rights

Due process, substantive

First Amendment

Fourteenth Amendment

Judicial activism

Judicial powers

Obscenity and pornography

Right to die

Categories: History