Title

The Supreme Court, Philosophy and Freedom of Choice: An Analysis

Date of Award

12-1-1976

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Political Science & Public Administration

Abstract

It is a major contention of this thesis that to argue, debate and philosophize about choice and freedom of choice is one thing, but arguments as to the existence of free choice and claims to its exercise do not mean much, unless within the framework of social and political life the freedom is recognized and protected by some legal authority— in this case, the United States Supreme Court.

This thesis is directed at two areas of political research. First will be a survey and examination of current philosophic literature in order to specify and describe the various models employed in contemporary conceptions of choice. There are three such models discussed in this thesis. One may be termed the "action model" where choosing is considered to be identical with the action taken. In other words, choos ing is acting. The second model may be termed the "action/decision model" where it is argued that when what is chosen is an object, then choosing is acting; but choosing is deciding in the case of choosing to perform an action. The third model is that in all cases, choosing is deciding and not acting and that deciding is the result of deliberation. This model may be termed the "decision" or "deliberative" model.

The second methodological element examines selected cases of the Supreme Court in order to determine what protection, if any, is given to freedom of choice, how it is justified, and in what areas of activity This chapter is broken down into six general categories: voting, trials religion and school, education, pornography and marriage and procreation. The categories are not all-inclusive of the scope of the Supreme Court's decisions, but serve to break the cases discussed into units in which the cases are generally related to each other and illustrates the sweep of the Court's decisions with regard to choice.

The investigations of the philosophical discussions and the decisions of the Court bearing on freedom of choice are combined in the final chapter in an endeavor to ascertain which of the identified philosophical models is employed by the Court in its decisions. This will be accomplished by examining the fashion in which the component parts of choice--alternatives, actions, decision, and deliberation--are employed and emphasized by the Court and the relationship of those statements to a particular model. Also there is to be an attempt to identify the extent to which the models are currently used by the Court and the consistency of decisions regarding choice. Lastly, is a description and analysis of how freedom of choice is protected and guaranteed by the Court (if indeed it is).

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