Thomas Jefferson's Ethics and the Politics of Human Progress: The Morality of a Slaveholder

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Cambridge University Press, Dec 23, 2013 - History - 280 pages
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Could Jefferson claim any consistency in his advocacy of democracy and the rights of man while remaining one of the largest slaveholders in Virginia? This extensive study of Jefferson's intellectual outlook suggests that, once we fully acknowledge the premises of his ethical thought and his now outdated scientific views, he could. Jefferson famously thought the human mind to be 'susceptible of much improvement ... most of all, in matters of government and religion'. Ari Helo's thorough analysis of Jefferson's understanding of Christian morality, atheism, contemporary theories of moral sentiments, ancient virtue ethics, natural rights, and the principles of justice and benevolence suggests that Jefferson refused to be a philosopher, and did so for moral reasons. This book finds Jefferson profoundly political in his understanding of individual moral responsibility and human progress.
 

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Contents

Jefferson the Politician
7
History Progress and Politics
16
Progress in Natural and Moral Sciences
46
Progress and the Wise Mans Virtue
78
The Perfectible Rights of Men
109
Progressive Politics
139
Notes
181
Select Bibliography
261
Index
275
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About the author (2013)

Ari Helo is currently a University Lecturer in History of Science and Ideas at the University of Oulu. He earned his PhD at the University of Tampere in 1999 with a doctoral dissertation examining Thomas Jefferson's political thought. He has taught intellectual history, American studies and cultural studies at numerous universities since 1996, and worked as a visiting researcher at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville for three years. Helo's articles, mainly in American intellectual history, have been published in Britain, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, The Netherlands and the United States, among them the widely noticed efferson, Morality, and the Problem of Slavery' with Peter Onuf in The William and Mary Quarterly (2003) and a survey article on Jefferson's political thought in the Cambridge Companion to Thomas Jefferson (2009).

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