Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

The Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson

The world’s attention has been on American politics and American government for the last few months. The reference to the American Constitution and its founders has been constant. Indeed, understanding the impeachment process and the choice of a supreme court judge requires some knowledge of the constitution and its contributors. Professor Garrett Ward Sheldon has written a book about Thomas Jefferson, one of the most influential of the founding fathers. His book, The Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson, is favourably reviewed below.

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Summary of The Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson by Garrett Ward Sheldon

To show what elements of what theories comprised Jefferson’s political philosophy, Sheldon traces the development of his political thoughts alongside the development of America, showing how Jefferson’s thoughts changed as America evolved throughout The Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson.

First, before delving into the relationship between Jefferson’s thoughts and America’s evolving national character, Sheldon describes the combination of Lockean liberalism and classical republicanism that primarily contributed to Jefferson’s political philosophy, hinting at how Jefferson was able to blend “many philosophical concepts into a comprehensive and coherent political philosophy, the essence of which [might] be closer to classical republicanism than to Lockean liberalism.”

Then, after delving into the attributes of and differences between the two, Sheldon begins his history-based approach, starting, as should be expected, with America as a colony. In this chapter, Sheldon discusses how “the position that the American colonists found themselves in…accounted for much of their feelings of both affection for, and resentment of, the royal British Empire.”

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Thomas Jefferson and academic freedom

Thomas Jefferson’s Conception of ‘Academic Freedom’ and Its Current Condition in American Higher Education

Garrett Ward Sheldon
The John Morton Beaty Professor of Political and Social Sciences, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

‘Here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error, so long as reason is left free to combat it.’ -Thomas Jefferson

THOMAS JEFFERSON’S CONCEPTION OF ‘Academic Freedom’ became the standard of modern intellectual progress in America and the world. Its components of both individual freedom of inquiry in expression and debate along with lively, free and tolerant academic community were seen as essential to all other forms of progress: political, economic, social and ethical. This Jeffersonian ideal of Academic Freedom in the university and all its positive effects on the rest of American Society has come under assault throughout history from religious bigotry, social intolerance, and political ideology, most recently from the federal government’s expansion of the Title IX law during the past six years. It almost destroyed university knowledge and learning, the lively academic community as well as their attendant social and personal benefits. Continue reading Thomas Jefferson and academic freedom