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Master Class II: The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Professor Sam Rickless

The Fourteenth Amendment promises all persons in the United States the due process of law and equal protection of the laws. Ever since the Amendment was ratified (in 1868), generations of judges and legal scholars have struggled to interpret and apply the very general concepts of “due process” and “equal protection.” In this five-lecture series, we will begin by becoming more familiar with the United States Constitution and with the various challenges faced by those who seek to understand it. We will consider two main approaches to constitutional interpretation, the textualism of Antonin Scalia and the “principled” reading of Ronald Dworkin. We will then test these approaches against famous equal-protection and due-process cases that have come before the United States Supreme Court, cases involving de jure discrimination by race, de jure discrimination by sex, and government infringement of the right to privacy.

February 15: What the Constitution Says

The Constitution of the United States: Our nation’s founding document. Many people walk around with a copy in their pockets. But what does it actually say?

February 22: What the Constitution Means

The Constitution of the United States: We now know what it says. But how should its terms be interpreted and applied to situations that its framers and ratifiers never anticipated? We will look at two dueling theories of constitutional interpretation: (i) Textualism, and (ii) the Constitution of Principle.

March 1: Race and the Fourteenth Amendment

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment: Does it permit de jure racial segregation? Does it permit, or proscribe, affirmative action?

March 8: Sex and the Fourteenth Amendment

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment: Does it permit discrimination by government on the basis of sex? Should race discrimination and sex discrimination be treated similarly?

March 15: Does the Constitution Protect a Right of Privacy?

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment: Does it protect a fundamental right to privacy? If so, why? Should this right be understood to protect the decision to use contraceptives? The decision to obtain an abortion? The decision to engage in sexual practices of which the majority of voters disapprove? The decision to marry a person of the same sex?

Instructor: Sam Rickless is Professor of Philosophy at UC San Diego. He earned a BA from Harvard, attended Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship, and received his PhD from UCLA. His areas of research include early modern Western philosophy, ancient Greek philosophy, the philosophy of law, and the philosophy of language.

Coordinator: Mark Evans

Course Number: OSHR-70135   Credit: 0 units


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