84 Fordham L. Rev. Res Gestae 1 (2015-2016)

handle is hein.journals/resgest6 and id is 1 raw text is: 









        ORIGINALISM AS THIN DESCRIPTION:
          AN INTERDISCIPLINARY CRITIQUE

                              Saul Cornell*

  More than a half century ago, the distinguished American historian John
Higham noted the emergence of intellectual history as a vital tool for
humanists across a variety of disciplines. Writing with an enviable lucidity
and a generosity of spirit, Higham observed that intellectual history has
been the work of many hands, and we have come to do it from all the points
of the academic compass. Philosophers, literary scholars, historians, and
others have converged upon one another, bringing their various interests,
backgrounds and methods to a common task.1
   Since Higham made his observations more than fifty years ago, the field
has seen its ups and downs. Despite some predictions that intellectual
history might not survive the assault of post-structuralist theory and post-
modernism more generally, its methods are now nearly ubiquitous in the
humanities.2 Even beyond the humanities, intellectual history has become
an important tool in other fields, such as law.3
  Given these facts, it is a bit puzzling to read Lawrence Solum's
discussion of intellectual history in his recent essay, Intellectual History as
Constitutional Theory.4 Rather than acknowledge how widely accepted its
methods have become, he treats intellectual history as if it were some type
of esoteric knowledge, a form of cabalistic teaching shrouded in mystery
whose techniques are jealously guarded by its disciples.5 Quite the opposite
is true-the field is not only extremely vital, but it embraces a dazzling
range of topics and methodological eclecticism. Given intellectual history's

* Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History, Fordham University.

    1. John Higham, Intellectual History and Its Neighbors, 15 J. HIST. IDEAS 339, 399
(1954).
    2. For an overview of trends in the field over the last half century, see generally
Anthony Grafton, The History of Ideas: Precept and Practice, 1950-2000 and Beyond, 67 J.
HIST. IDEAS 1 (2006). On intellectual history and philosophy, see Richard Rorty, The
Historiography of Philosophy: Four Genres, in PHILOSOPHY IN HISTORY: ESSAYS ON THE
HISTORIOGRAPHY OF PHWOSOPHY 49 (Richard Rorty et al. eds., 1984). On intellectual
history in literary studies, see Richard Macksey, The History of Ideas at 80, 117 MLN 1083
(2002).
    3. See generally DAVID M. RABBAN, FREE SPEECH IN AMERICA: ITS FORGOTTEN YEARS
(1997); G. EDWARD WHITE, TORT LAW IN AMERICA: AN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY (2003).
    4. Lawrence B. Solum, Intellectual History as Constitutional Theory, 101 VA. L. REV.
1111 (2015).
    5. For an examination of such esoteric teachings, see GERSHOM SCHOLEM, MAJOR
TRENDS IN JEWISH MYSTICISM (1954).

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