If you want to deepen your understanding of the differences between “originalism” and “living constitutionalism” as competing theories of constitutional law and interpretation, there’s no better place to begin than with the 2006 debate between the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the recently retired liberal Justice Stephen Breyer.

Originalism asserts that the terms and provisions of the Constitution, such those dealing with due process, equal protection, free speech and unreasonable searches and seizures must be understood today as they were understood by the Founding Fathers. For originalists, the meaning of the Constitution remains forever fixed absent an amendment to the Constitution.

Living constitutionalists assert that while the text of the Constitution is the starting point of any legal analysis, the meaning of our national charter should evolve over time to accommodate contemporary values, social needs, advances in science, and changing traditions.

The Scalia-Breyer debate was jointly sponsored by the right-wing Federalist Society and the liberal American Constitution Society, and took place at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, D.C.

You can watch the full discussion (running time 1:35) here.

Alternatively, you can zoom in on a 8:27 segment edited by the Federalist Society that lays out the key differences here.

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