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Paradoxes Entailed in America’s Self-Evident Truths, Essay Example

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Abstract

Today, many philosophical explanations have been made in order to assess the rationale for different self evident truths that have shaped the American political landscape since the nation was formed in the 18th century. The philosophical explanations are often laden with paradoxes. This essay assesses the philosophical thoughts that shaped the American nation, the philosophers behind them and the paradoxes that arise from these thoughts.

A highlight of important publications leading to the harmonization of American ideals is provided in this easy and this makes it easy for self-evident truths to be analyzed and critiqued effectively and in a logical manner. This paper contains very critical analyses of the philosophical underpinnings of the American ideals.

Isn’t it strange that America is believed to be the epitome of liberty and freedom for everyone while at the same time, this liberty and freedom leads to limitation of some people’s rights? Many people all over the world consider the high standards of liberty and freedom in America to be self-evident ideals. Paradoxically, some the citizens often have to surrender some of their liberties and rights in order for the self-evident truth to come out. However, few know that the freedom that is exercised by Americans came at a cost, mainly in the form of surrendered rights and freedoms.

What is the origin of American ideals? According to Robinson (2004) the American ideals were put in place through the ‘gold standard’ that marked the beginning of a new conscience in the country. The underlying standard was that every American would always be governed through the rule of law in all the days to come.  The dignity of individuals was to be preserved and this was expected to bring about a sense of familiarity with the government among all citizens.

How did ideals develop in the American society? As Robinson (2004) puts it, there is a general spirit that exists among all American people and it is this spirit that has always remained an established principle among all citizens. This general spirit defines the American doctrines that bear a lot from confirmed persuasion. Issues of the American ideals and their importance fall within modern philosophy.

John Locke was one of the philosophers who influenced the American ideals a great deal. In fact, John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government was very instrumental in the formation of the US constitution as well as Declaration of Independence. His philosophy on government was highly influential owing to his opposition to all forms of authoritarian governments.

By refuting the Divine Right of Kings doctrine in its patriarchal version, The First Treatise of Government Locke set the precedent for a government where liberty and freedom for all is guaranteed through the practice of the rule of law. Filmer’s contention about man not being naturally free was singled out and strongly opposed by Locke, through carefully woven logical arguments, including an examination of bible verses that were used by people like Filmer to justify their claims that the best form of government was an absolute monarchy.

The Second Treatise of Government is an explicit explanation of the positive theory of government. This Locke’s theory formed the basis of social contract theory and natural rights theory, both of which dominated political philosophy in the eighteenth century, and on whose tenets American ideals are based. Through these theories, many self evident truths emerged, one of them being natural rights, in which case, Locke argues that the right of man to a means of survival is natural.

When assessing the paradoxes contained in the self-evident truths, focus on The Declaration of Independence of The United States of America is necessary. One of the  self-evident truths is that all men are created equal, and that they are all endowed with certain rights that are inalienable, most important among them liberty, life and pursuit of happiness. The basis for self-evident nature of these truths arises from the entitlement given to them by nature’s God and laws of nature. The declaration gives people the power to institute governments that are founded on these self-evident truths and that any deviation from or destruction of these truths calls for abolishment of such governments.

George Berkeley’s approach to idealism is very important in our interpretation of the American self-evident truths. In this philosophical thought, external perception does not exist in the perceived objects; rather it exists in our minds and ideas. This validates the conception of American ideals as self-evident by virtue of not existing in the physical but in the minds. How does this philosophical strand relate to theism as expressed in the American ideals? Idealism contributes to the definition of American truths as explained in the Declaration of the Independence of the United States of America, including proving God’s existence (Emerson, 1993).

Nevertheless, it is paradoxical that the rule of law continues to raise many philosophical concerns relating to the inalienable rights of man. Empiricists such as Berkeley, Locke and, David Hume and Thomas Hobbes often disagree with rationalists such as Baruch Spinoza, Rene Descartes and Leibniz in the interpretation “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”, the rhetorical ideals that form the foundation of America’s self evident truths. The main question here is where reasoning (rationalism) or sensory experience (sensory experience) should form the basis of conceptualization of the inalienable right of the American people. Ideally, America’s self evident truths were conceived through a rationalistic approach.

Empiricists often argue that the self-evident truths as contained in the American constitution present a paradox of interpretation. In this case, the assertion that all Americans have an inalienable right to life is not true by virtue of being self-evident; it is true only because there is a consensus to that effect.

In the renaissance philosophy, questions are often raised on the nature of self evident truths thus: if it is true that the American ideals are self evident, how comes the ideals can be overrun and are often overrun through limitations to some liberties and freedoms? If it is true that self-evident truths are self evident since the opposite is unthinkable, as Glenn (1994) says in his book Introduction to Philosophy, why is it not unthinkable for limitations to be imposed on one’s freedoms and liberties just like as it sometimes in happens in America today?

It is also paradoxical that although Locke talks about inalienable freedoms in the First Treatise of Government, he expresses intolerance towards atheists on grounds that covenants, oaths and promises which bond the human society together have absolute no hold on an atheist (Robinson, 2004).  It seems that this rationalistic way gets into the interpretation of self evident truths, making them mean different things depending on the argument forth.

Modern philosophy has a lot to give in the form of paradoxes that can be described by both philosophers and politicians. The first paradox is that of man as ‘corrupt’ and artificial’. If this is the case, one doubts whether the self-evident ideals of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is true. If man is inherently evil, rationalists would claim that safeguarding and making provisions for freedoms and liberties is not a worthy cause. Rather, governments would become excessively powerful and man might end up in civil strife and replacement of errant politicians.

When in the state of nature, man, according to Rousseau, is a noble savage, something that does not rhyme well with the philosophical accounts given on philosophical literature relating to American politics and government. It is not clear why he also sees a strong government is a cause of a strong government that crushes individual liberty. Against this backdrop, it material progress is proven to be a source of problems, where sincere friendship is replaced with jealousy, suspicion and fear.

According to Russell (1961), modern knowledge, as it relates to American politics continues to affect the mental life of Americans in new ways as we head into the future. The life of one’s mind, as Russell sees it is made up of three aspects: feeling, willing thinking. All these aspects present different meanings to different Americans at different times, thereby presenting a paradox of interpretation.

In David Hume’s Of Liberty of the Press, both an absolute monarchy and republican present similarities if one side of the continuum as far as material wellbeing is considered. Hume’s arguments trigger a rational question of whether liberties as enshrined in the American constitution have to be there for people to exercise material wellbeing. In this case, it becomes clear that the American self-evident truths have been used to create laws not on objective grounds but on rational ones, in order for ideals of identity at the national level to be achieved. In other words, political considerations, rather than purely philosophical ones, were at stake when the self-evident truths were being put forward.

The paradoxes that arise in the conceptualization of the American political philosophy as it relates to the wellbeing of her citizens are best assessed from two extreme ends of a continuum: complete liberty and complete slavery. Complete liberty is seen to be the result of a democratic government while slavery is seen to be the result of monarchy.

References

Emerson, R. (1993). Self-Reliance and Other Essays. New York: Dover Publications.

Glenn. P. (2005). An Introduction to Philosophy. St. Louis: Herder Book Co.

Robinson, D. (2004). American Ideals: Founding a “Republic of Virtue”. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Russell, B. (1961). The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, Volume 10. New York: Taylor & Francis.

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