Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, and the American Founders? Yup. Such a heavyweight lineup! Let's get to it:
After finishing Thomist philosopher Edward Feser's The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, a friend wrote:
"Feser argues the moderns ruined Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy by basically assuming, without argument, that we could engage in science and philosophy without a metaphysic, without a telos. Does this apply to our Founders? To
? We conservatives take refuge that, for all the ravages of 19th and 20th century pseudo philosophy and political theory, our founding at least was pure. Would Feser agree? Or would he argue that even our founding was poisoned by the modern zombified anti-Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of a soulless, purposeless man?" Lincoln
Since Feser also wrote a philosophical biography of John Locke, yes, I would say so, at least per Jefferson, who is rather soulless.
. Reviewer Irfan Khawaja wrote: Madison
"Two of Feser‘s criticisms stand out for their subversive potential: (1) Locke‘s skepticism about our knowledge of real essences undermines what he has to say in defense of natural rights… (2) The defects in Locke‘s theory of personal identity undermine his justification of private property… These criticisms, and others like them, should force us to think more carefully about the relationship between Locke‘s "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" and his political works, and will undoubtedly keep Locke scholars busy for some time.
Feser ends the book… with a provocative chapter on “Locke‘s Contestable Legacy.” One bonus of the discussion is a very interesting (and in my view, correct) application of Locke‘s views to international politics in the post-9/11 world... Feser‘s main point, though, is that taken as a whole, Locke‘s philosophy offers us a package deal of incompatible elements, so that “[t]hose who seek to appropriate Locke‘s legacy today must decide which part of it they value most, for they cannot coherently have it all”... Even if one thinks, as I do, that Feser occasionally lets his Scholastic polemics overshadow his examination of Locke‘s theorizing, he is right to push the reader to some such decision. Whether such a reader will be pushed from Lockeanism to Feser‘s Scholasticism is another matter, but there‘s no question that some pushing is in order, and that Feser‘s Locke does an excellent job at supplying it."
Now, my own studies of religion and the Founding have led me to the strong Calvinistic influence, which runs on a rather parallel track, and non-creedally--call it "Judeo"-Christianity--"Providence" stands in for telos [the ultimate human purpose] quite well, "Providence" being almost universally accepted by the Founding generation, including the "questionably Christian" Ben Franklin and the studiously non-creedal Geo. Washington.
"In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor...
"I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?"---
, call for prayer at the Constitutional Convention Franklin
"[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe...
No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the
. United States
Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities..."--GWash, 1st Inaugural
Still, some historians say that certain clever secular-Enlightenment Founders put a Lockean "poison pill" in the Constitution, which leaves out all mention of God. The bible for that is
Yay! However, because Jefferson and
Virginia held a virtual veto over any God-talk [with the assent of the third-place
Baptists, sucking hind teat behind the Episcopals and Presbyterians],
religion was simply left to the states. Today, few Americans know that the other 12 states kept their religious
tests for [statewide] office, and virtually every state constitution
mentions God. Madison
True story. Who knew?
In these discussions, those of the secular bent want to define these
as the Constitution, no more and no less. And once we agree to play on
their home field, they usually win. Even if you survive the Founding,
incorporating the 1st Amendment via the 14th (Torcaso v. Watkins )
means it's Game Over. United States of America
But that's not exactly how it all went down, and it's not what still keeps us ticking:
If your rights aren't "endowed" by some higher power, then your "rights" are only whatever you can wrest and wrangle from your government. And what the Founders knew, and what all men come to realize, is that whatever your government gives, it can also take away...