Does God move in a mysterious way? The argument from consequences and its use in constitutional justice

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Author: Aldar Chirninov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2020-2-33-57

Keywords: ,; consequences; consequentialism; constitutional justice; constitutionality; efficiency


Although formal logic considers the argument from consequences to be a logical fallacy, its employment in the constitutional discourse reveals an extraordinary persuasive potential and the ability to ensure the rationality of constitutional adjudication. This can primarily be explained by the fact that the constitutional argumentation shares the features of practical reasoning that aims to formulate an acceptable course of action. The author of this article explores the persuasive, heuristic, and prognostic potential of the argument from consequences. With references to the case-law of the Constitutional Court of Russia, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, and the United States Supreme Court, the author reveals the advantages and disadvantages of consequential reasoning, examines the specific forms of the argument from consequences, including the covert ones (reduction to the absurd, appeal to common sense, formulation of hypothetical questions), and considers typical argumentative errors that arise due to the incorrect appeals to desirable or undesirable outcomes of legal regulation. The article also deals with the dishonest tricks of argument that an unscrupulous agent can resort to in the course of the construction of her argument (a «slippery slope» argument, wishful thinking, the use of the argument from consequences as a hidden basis for a constitutional ruling). Studying the steps of the consequence-based decision-making process, the author draws attention to the methodological difficulties that arise when the argument from consequences is included in the constitutional discourse. Finally, the author proposes a typology of the consequences that constitutional courts should take into account when exercising the judicial review of legislative actions. Overall, the study concludes that the argument from consequences is not only appropriate for constitutional review but also quite essential. On the one hand, many legal concepts, constitutional principles, and judicial doctrines require that the consequences of legal regulation be considered, and on the other hand, it is consequentialist reasoning that can offer the most optimal solutions of «hard cases». By placing legal regulation in a specific life context, the argument from consequences strengthens the regulatory potential of law and thereby turns it into an efficient means of achieving important social goals.

About the author: Aldar Chirninov – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Researcher, Institute of Philosophy and Law, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Assistant Professor at Ural State Law University, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Citation: Chirninov A. (2020) Puti – ispovedimy? Argument k posledstviyam i ego ispol’zovanie v praktike konstitutsionnogo pravosudiya [Does God move in a mysterious way? The argument from consequences and its use in constitutional justice]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.29, no.2, pp.33–57. (In Russian).


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