by Mark Fischler
The following article outlines the major approaches to constitutional interpretation and explains how either approach on its own ultimately leads to a narrow and incomplete understanding of the law, which ignores the rich reality that both interior and exterior perspectives carry. The author will introduce Integral Legal Theory as a method of interpretation that will allow each perspective its day in court while offering coherence to a jurisprudence gone slightly mad.
In the U.S. alone, there are at least a dozen different methods of interpreting the law. These styles are diverse and most reject the validity of the other. For example, in February 2006, Justice Antonin Scalia, responding to the notion that the constitution is dynamic and not static, was reported to say, “You would have to be an idiot to believe that. The constitution is not a living organism. It is a legal document. It says some things and doesn’t say others.”1 Scalia, an “originalist” in his interpretive approach, sees little worth in any style that relies on using morals and values when interpreting the law. Alternatively, Professor Ronald Dworkin in his many books and articles, lays out an equally coherent argument on why a judge ought to use subjective, moral principles set by society in deciding a case. The division between the two is alive and well with their followers writing law review articles every year that defend their particular approach as superior to the other. The rift continues, and we are left to choose sides.
The deeper truth, however, is that each of these approaches tells only a part of the story regarding the legal issue in question. Scalia represents a more empirical, text-driven approach to legal interpretation while Dworkin subscribes to a more subjective, interior-driven approach. Either approach on its own ultimately leads to a narrow and incomplete understanding of the law (no matter the interpretive style), which ignores the rich reality that both interior and exterior perspectives carry. The following article will introduce Integral Legal Theory as a method of interpretation that will allow each perspective its day in court while offering coherence to a jurisprudence gone slightly mad.
To understand the basic principles of this approach we will employ American philosopher Ken Wilber’s “all-quadrant, all-level” model (otherwise known as Integral Theory) to the interpretation of law. Integral Theory is extraordinary in that its purpose is to recognize and take into account the various perspectives at play in any situation and not reduce one perspective to another. Each is recognized for its partial piece of truth that it provides, no more or less. When each perspective is taken into account simultaneously, a clearer and therefore better understanding of the situation is instantly available to the interpreter. As a result, justice can be better served.