Thomas Jefferson: Moralist

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About the Book

 Much of the scholarship on Thomas Jefferson characterizes him as a consummate immoralist. Yet he had a keen interest in morality and most of his reading—when he was not immersed in politics—was for moral study. Jefferson once told his physician, Vine Utley, that he seldom went to sleep without first reading something morally inspiring.
Some Jefferson scholars consider him at best a moral dilettante with incoherent views. Others see him as a Stoic, interested in virtue as measured by both intentions and outcomes, who in later life became an Epicurean, weighing pleasure versus ends.
Drawing on a careful reading of his writings and an examination of his known readings on morality, this study argues that Jefferson developed early a consistent moral sense—Stoical in essence and focused on his own moral improvement—and maintained it throughout his life.

About the Author(s)

M. Andrew Holowchak is a philosopher and historian who teaches at the University of the Incarnate Word. He has published more than 30 books, eight of which are on Thomas Jefferson, on whom he is one of the world’s foremost authorities. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Bibliographic Details

M. Andrew Holowchak
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 268
Bibliographic Info: 9 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6924-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2817-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Preface 1

1. “The ennui … of a tedious sermon”: Head versus Heart in a Love Letter to Maria Cosway 7

2. “Art appears too much”: Jefferson and the Moral and Aesthetic Senses 34

3. “Expediency can never contend with virtue”: Jefferson’s Ancient Philosophy Sources 63

4. “The law of nature … cannot be stationary”: Jefferson’s Curious Immixture of Modern Moralists 95

5. Ethicizing Through Truth and Untruth: The Lessons of History and Useful Fiction 128

6. The Politics of Progress: The Lessons of Government by the Few 145

7. Duty to God and Duty to Man: Jefferson on Religion, Sectarian and Natural 161

8. Government by the Natural Aristoi: Education and the Problem of Virtuous Politicians 191

9. The (Stoic) Sage of Monticello: “Truth [as] a branch of morality” 207

Chapter Notes 227

Bibliography 247

Index 255

Book Reviews & Awards

“Holowchak explores Jefferson’s ethical views by studying his account of the moral sense, morality in general, and human flourishing”—ProtoView.