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American Philosophy before Pragmatism$
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Russell B. Goodman

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199577545

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577545.001.0001

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Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

(p.101) 4 Thomas Jefferson
American Philosophy before Pragmatism

Russell B. Goodman

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Jefferson’s intellectual background, especially in English and Scottish authors, his lifelong defense of religious freedom, authorship of the “Declaration of Independence,” and his views on religion, morality, and education. Jefferson was a radical republican who did not think we have an essential or metaphysical connection to the polis, held that the earth belongs to the living, that wealth threatens the fundamental equality on which the American republic is to be based, and that there should be regular revisions of the Constitution. He wrote eloquently about the evils of slavery in the Notes on the State of Virginia, while continuing to own slaves until the day he died. The Notes contain disturbing passages about race, and Jefferson’s own actions in fathering a family with his slave, Sally Hemings, complicate the story of his relation to American slavery.

Keywords:   religious freedom, Declaration of Independence, radical republican, race, slavery, education, religion, morality, Sally Hemings

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