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By M.L. Burstein

Supplies large fabric making it attainable for the reader to appreciate how Thomas Jefferson's brain spanned the substantial distance isolating antiquity from writers like William James and Sigmund Freud, interpreting his reviews in economics, ethical philosophy, historical past and law.

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Extra info for Understanding Thomas Jefferson: Studies in Economics, Law and Philosophy

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Seeks first causes and divine intentions. And its deist variants hardly differ in this respect: systems of natural values allow no more choice than ones pivoting on divine mandates. But humans choose their value systems. Hume's distinction of ought from is contains the seed of modern moral philosophy. And ought inexorably leads to reflection on self - a surprisingly evanescent idea. If it is not clear what "I" am, it surely cannot be obvious what "I" ought to do. Hume shows that the right action cannot be deduced from first principles (so Kant tilts at a windmill).

Far from exhibiting "constructivist" bias, the philosophes and the ideOlogues, including Jefferson, were sunk in rather raw empiricism. True, they were anxious for improvement, often through reform; and, to their credit, they did not rely on the preposterous idea, uncertainly attributed to Burke, that what came to be called Darwinian natural selection ("evolution") leads to valid "survivor principles" in ethics and politics. Nor were America's Constitutional founders more committed to "evolution," or less "constructivist" than the philosophes, who had so little to build on.

O The "monstrous abuses" of the Ancien Regime may not have "ground the French to powder," but Jefferson's litany of entrenched abuses is persuasive. There seems little chance that so wretched a situation would correct itself; a shove was necessary. o Jefferson doubtless exaggerates both the queen's (MarieAntoinette's) power and her political malignancy; but Burke's panegyric is absurd. " o Jefferson abided the liquidation of the king and queen with glacial (if not Lenin-like) calm: so vast an upheaval reckoned to claim a number of prominent victims.

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