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Thomas Jefferson's Ethics and the Politics of Human Progress: The Morality of a Slaveholder (Cambridge Studies on the American South)

Thomas Jefferson's Ethics and the Politics of Human Progress: The Morality of a Slaveholder (Cambridge Studies on the American South)

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Ari Helo
Cambridge University Press
Edition: Reprint, 8/6/2015
EAN 9781107687721, ISBN10: 1107687721

Paperback, 298 pages, 22.9 x 15.2 x 1.9 cm
Language: English

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intellectual outlook suggests that, once we fully acknowledge the premises of his ethical thought and his now outdated scientific views, he could.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.

Introduction to the morality of a slaveholder
1. History, progress, and politics
2. Progress in natural and moral sciences
3. Progress and the wise man's virtue
4. The perfectible rights of men
5. Progressive politics
6. Conclusions
the Jeffersonian ethics of the living.