The Pursuit of Happiness in the Democratic Creed: An Analysis of Political Ethics

By Ursula M. von Eckardt | Go to book overview

10
HAPPINESS AND VIRTUE

1. The Positive Doctrines of Deism

Although Jefferson probably read and certainly admire the philosophical works of Locke, his interpretation of the Essay Concerning Human Understanding was occasioned primarily by the writings of Henry St. John, Lord Viscount of Bolingbroke.1 Generally, therefore, Jefferson's remarks recall Bolingbroke's positive assertions rather than Locke's cautious explorations.2

While the philosophy of Locke presents a tentative and theoretical exploration into the origin and extent of the ideas in the human mind, suggesting the practical consequences of men's realization of the limits of the human understanding, his conclusions are set forth too cautiously to permit the construction of a clear-cut political and legal doctrine. Since one of Locke's main purposes in writing the Essay was to warn against the presumptiousness of dogmatic philosophers, he

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