NEWPORT, R.I. – In honor of Constitution Day, the Pell Honors Program at Salve Regina is presenting a public lecture by two faculty members, Khalil Habib and Luigi Bradizza, who will discuss “Nature or Progress?: Understanding Today’s Constitutional Disputes.”
Free and open to the public, the lecture will be presented from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16 in the Pell Center Ballroom, located in the Young Building, corner of Bellevue and Ruggles avenues. As seating is limited, those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP by Tuesday, Sept. 13 to email@example.com.
Americans from all points on the political spectrum are united in their allegiance to the Constitution, but they differ substantially and importantly on how one should understand the document. At the most fundamental level, these divisions reduce to a difference over whether there are permanent, trans-historical, universal, and natural standards of human conduct discernable through reason, or whether we must understand ourselves as existing under a horizon of human development and evolution that allows for progress in thought and deed.
One alternative allows, at least in principle, for fixed constitutional truths. The other alternative requires that the Constitution be interpreted and reinterpreted in light of evolving standards of conduct and in line with progressive aspirations that in effect render past thought and principles obsolete.
Habib and Bradizza will lay out these two alternatives in a way that is non-partisan, evenhanded, and accessible to the non-expert. Habib’s presentation will focus on the philosophical ideas of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Montesquieu – three of the most important foundational thinkers behind the American Founding and its constitutional government, while Bradizza’s presentation will focus on the natural rights doctrine of the Founding Era and the defense of natural rights under an “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution. He will then turn to the Progressive Era departure from those principles a century later, and the defense of progressivism under a “non-originalist” or “living document” interpretation of the Constitution.