A group blog to promote discussion, debate and insight into the history, particularly religious, of America's founding. Any observations, questions, or comments relating to the blog's theme are welcomed.
Jon,Thanks for this. I had wondered why there hadn't been more posting. And I was trying to find an article that Tom posted on political philosophy a few weeks ago...as I have some time to read :-)!
No posting because busy doing other things. Plus, I can get to a point where I hit a wall as it were with my research. I've uncovered quite a bit and the more I need to uncover the deeper I need to go into the footnotes.Plus with what I've already uncovered, I have the feeling it might do me good to "convert" it to less self published places.
"Government is founded not on force, as was the theory of Hobbes; nor on compact, as was the theory of Locke and of the revolution of 1688; nor on property, as was the assertion of Harrington. It springs from the necessities of our nature, and has an everlasting foundation in the unchangeable will of God." James Otis, 1764Until the "law of nature" as "natural law" is figured in [see also Alexander Hamilton's The Farmer Refuted---the terms are used interchangeably in the Founding scheme], the Straussian method is inadequate, as it creates an untenable either/or between modernity and the Bible, reason and revelation.
I thought that our government was given its power through rationality and the consent of the governed?Self-evident truth was empirical and this was what the Founders "invented" in government...through representation and not heredity.Didn't natural law go back to Grotius, who thought that law was a universal? International law is based on his understandings.
True about Grotius. But I think, Angie, like OFT, who politely accepted our invitation to stop junking up the comments sections, you don't quite have a handle on what "natural law" meant to the Founders.It's in between the Bible and the Enlightenment, and we can't understand the Founding without it.Self-evident truth was empirical...Actually, "empiricism" recognizes nothing that cannot be proved by the senses. "Self-evident truths" are philosophical or theological presuppositions, not supported by the evidence of the senses.To illustrate: a very popular phrase during the leadup to the Civil War came from one John Petitt,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Pettitwho said that the idea that all men are created equal was a "self-evident lie." !!! And empirically, it is a lie. Some of us are smarter, stronger, better looking, more charismatic, kind. And some of us are none of the above---we are stupid, weak, ugly, unappealing, and not even very nice either.That's why "endowed by their creator" and "made in the image of God" is so important, that we are all equal in the eyes of God, and our neighbor is equal to ourselves.That is not "self-evident" by any means through the eyes of man---empirically. We are only equal in the eyes of God. And if we are equal in each other's eyes, it's because we are trying to look at each other through God's eyes, not our own.[And I don't care what our good and faithful atheist friends around here say, I think you're looking through those same eyes, you softies, you. Empirically, it is a self-evident lie.]
The Founders were elitists, as they were the eduated class. Many of these believed that the "ruling class" was justified. And it seems to be the same today. Ben Franklin did start the first library, for the "common man". But, many of them held slaves and were "promiscuis"...(it was before the Victorian era :))..So, did they believe in human rights the way we think of them today? No, The Constitution didn't even support it.Equality is still not what the world works on, as civil rights has been a long battle..Civil War, integration, discrimination laws, etc. But, I would argue that one can't legislate what must come from the "heart". You cannot make another human being really care about another human being. You might limit actions that would harm, but this is about all that the law should do, IF one still adheres to liberty.And since the post is on "A Bilical", or Anti-Bibilcal, the Bible has some very narrow ways of looking at the world. Much of what the Bible has to say is irrelavant today and many other passages have been revised. That is, for those that are not fundamentalistic.
Even more so, one cannot demand that another do some specific humanitarian action to establish equality...nor can they even demand one's vocation be geared toward certain "ends", as long as we desire liberty of conscience and affirm different value systems.
Sure, as Al Gore translated E pluribus unum: "from one, many."But it's not self-evident you can run a society on relativism. It's not a value, it's a negation of them.
If you are looking for what values will define our nation, then yes, this is important. We can't be foundationless.The foundation of the "founding" was life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But, the definitions of these ideals were left to be defined by the individual families, local communities, etc. This is why we have liberal and conservative areas of the country. We can't limit the definitions, if it is not harming another. Otherwise, we go down a slippery slope such as will happen if we limit "free speech" because of hurt feelings.Civility should be taught in the family, and school. It is called manners. But, still I would argue that what one does in the North, would be shunned in the South. How we treat our neighbor should not be public policy.
I remember moving from the South to the Mid-West and finding it hard to swallow being called by my first name by my 2nd grader's friend. But, then my family was teaching their children to say, "Ma'm" and "Sir", when in D.C. it was looked at as being patronizing....
The foundation of the "founding" was life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.The foundation was that these rights are endowed by our creator.
So, evolution says....
Re: "The foundation of the "founding" was life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."... and ...Re: "The foundation was that these rights are endowed by our creator."I don't think there existed a dichotomy."We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."No doubt some were attracted by the theism, others by the liberty, but most by the merging of both.
These rights are granted by Nature, and then, humans create government that protect these rights through a social contract. When these rights are not granted, then there is political oppression. One doesn't necessarily have to believe in a Creator to believe in natural rights. Many believe that animals also have natural rights...
"Many" believe all sorts of things. "Many" believe in "the greatest good for the greatest number." Others believe in individual liberty.Some, like Joseph Sobran, believe in anarchy. But all points of view cannot be accommodated.To get pedantic here, the "foundation" in the D of I is primarily "the right to have rights." That right comes from the creator. What those rights are is actually a secondary discussion.Nature is stupid, and grants one right---death. As Hobbes rightly notes, the "natural" scheme is that man fears violent death the most, and so bands together in societies and governments in a sort of mutual defense pact, a social contract.But if you look at the original quote from James Otis in 1764:"Government is founded not on force, as was the theory of Hobbes; nor on compact, as was the theory of Locke and of the revolution of 1688; nor on property, as was the assertion of Harrington. It springs from the necessities of our nature, and has an everlasting foundation in the unchangeable will of God." THAT is the American founding ethos. "Natural rights," as understood by Hobbes [and many scholars say Locke agreed] are not the same thing. The Hobbesian argument is that in "the state of nature," man is totally free. But the hermit is the only free man!But men are not hermits, they are social animals. So according to the Hobbesian [and some scholars say the Lockean] scheme---James Otis agrees about Locke as early as 1764---rights become a matter of negotiation with the government. They are not "unalienable," they are not granted by "nature," they are entirely political, subject to the forces of man vs. man, man vs. his rulers.Ms. Van De Merwe, if you don't read Hamilton's The Farmer Refuted before you comment again, I swear I shall scream!"The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased."The American vision of "the right to have rights" is pre-political. "Social contract" is pure politics. And as a matter of "social contract," how can animals have rights? They're animals. They don't respect anybody's rights, not even each other's.Plus they can't even enter into a contract. They can't read. ;-)
Re: "I swear I shall scream!"Wow ... that's some attractive bait! ;-)Re: "But all points of view cannot be accommodated"Agreed, but all the compatible ones can be.
Tom,One can begin with the presupposition of natural rights.These would be "secular humanists". One doesn't have to come from a presupposition of faith to defend natural rights.Sociologists believe that society progresses (that is debateable, as to definition); from relgion to metaphysics to science....but since science is value neutral, we have to come to agreement on what is beneficial to society. And that is the discussion that concerns policy makers, legislators, and the voting public. God adds emotion where emotion shouldn't be...I did read "The Farmer Rufute", so you needn't "scream"!
My husband, who is a scientist, is concerned over the lack of "moral bearing" in our country. He sees the road that science leads us, if we don't take care...so he is conservative.I believe that when it comes to our government and human liberty, one comes to understand that there are "problems whether one adheres to liberty, or to tradition, as both can be "bad or good", then one must choose where one will commit, if they are going to serve in either area...I can understand defending the ACLU and its vision for liberty. But, I can also understand where tradition's values are important for society. I just have personal resistance to provincialism...Science is lending "more light" on what a human is. And the human is not just his environment, or his biology. So, there must be a tension there, as well...I really think that I have always valued liberty above all else...
I was at another Madison program seminar on the religion clauses (expect a blog post about it soon) and one thing that was discussed was whether there was any "consensus" during the FF where we could even say "THIS" is what the FF was all about, as opposed to competing "THIS's" that may not be compatible with one another.Otis's quote certainly represents *A* line of thought about the American Founding, but I'm not convinced it represents *the* line of thought.Brush off Hobbes? Sure. I wouldn't be so quick to brush off Locke and Harrington.
Joh,I was just thinking that what we use as the guide of our values, determine where we draw our lines...I personally am not geared toward "global governance, where liberals would liberalize the nation-state...but some think this is where we "should" go...But, these ways of understaning liberalization are what the conflict of the liberal and traditional/conservative is about...As to law, we shouldn't define society so tightly that it squeezes the diverse views out...This is why I could support the ACLU in theory. I probably wouldn't agree with every particular position brought before the court..but theorhetically I would have to uphold liberty...This is why in theory I would support the right of the Pastor to burn a Koran...But, I don't think it is what civiilty would lend itself to...
Jon, what I'm saying is that I see no evidence elsewhere that the FFs used Locke's "contract" theory of rights, which is at odds with "God-given" rights. Jame Wilson writes this explicitly, and I know you've read the quote.I'm not saying they rejected locke, but as Jefferson said about religious tolerance, went "beyond" him._______________Yes, Angie, I'm familiar with the "modern" theory of rights. The question is whether it's coherent. "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction that these liberties are of the gift of God?"
Tom,Science is NOT the "end all", as to values, but the "human" is.What defines the "human" and the "humane"?It seems that there is something about the human that desires to be free from meddling in his affairs. Although this is a human desire, human beings also need social connection to attain their potential and benefit society. But, they also must be given choices about their life.So, I agree that the "modern" experiment of isolation is not the best way to go. We are social beings, but when society does not allow enough room for diversity, then I believe we have become inhumane. (In my afore mentioned example about cultural differences of children addressing an adult, in our U.S.A., cultural differences stand. I wouldn't have made a federal case about what I considered "manners" based on my own background...this seems to be much of the "hurt feelings" that are taken to court today...)"God" is an idea, just as much as liberty. "God" orders society, which really means that men order society. So, just as "providence" was a useful term to the Founders in regards to their forming of society, so is "God" useful today."God" is useful today to get people "on board" to an agenda of globalization: humanitarian concerns, corporate expansion, and a manipulation of the "common person" to the ruling class.Civility is not being produced in our society because the family is broken. The attack is on many sides, but it will not be fixed with legislation. It must be done by community organizations. Civility is taught in the home, in how to treat your neighbor. How to be polite in public. How to socialize with others, etc.So, I agree with you that "tradition" is of values. I won't argue with you there, but I might disagree with you as to the reality of "God"....
"God" is an idea, just as much as liberty.Well, at the Founding, God was considered a reality, not just an "idea."And so, our "rights" are endowed by this creator, and among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.But if this creator is not a "reality," and our rights are not "unalienable," then we are all on our own, and our rights are too.Much as I love my fellow man, I don't trust him a whit, a spit, or a shit. How 'bout you?
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