Cookie Consent

Monday, February 12, 2007

Jefferson and Paine

Yesterday's George Will column said tht Reagan's religious philosophy owed more to Paine than Burke. That is, Burke believed man was easily corrupted, while Paine felt that man's nature was basically good. This is much like Rousseau- - the idea that it is society, and not nature, that makes men do evil.

The difference between Jefferson and Paine is that Jefferson romanticized the past (like Reagan), where Paine hated what he saw as the objectable story of history. In some sense, this makes Jefferson like Burke. The one hitch to this equation is that Burke saw European history as Christianity's struggle for order and morality. Jefferson clearly hated Christianity, only paying lip service to it in order to conceal his deistic idolatry for science. The lesson of this is that similarities are never so clear cut as to cast Ronald Reagan in either the shoes of Jefferson or of Paine.

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