I’m really not aware of any philosopher who intentionally transcended time and space. All of which I’m familiar began by addressing particular problems, and usually those of living colleagues or teachers. Perhaps, later, a philosopher might acquire timelessness by the simple fact of being read far after his/her death.
The best example, of course, refers to Aristotle answering his teacher, Plato. It’s simply impossible to understand Aristotle without this context.
Even as for Randian epistemology (fundamentally Aristotelian), Kripke and Putnam referred directly back to Russell and Wittgenstein’s alternative ‘Kantian-Humean’, while making supportive reference to Quine.
Even my own fave, Deleuze, has been criticized for ripping Hume, Spinoza, and Kant out of context!
I’m therefore surprised to hear anyone suggest that Rand wasn’t as traumatized by the Bolshevik uprising as everyone else. And yes, it's ‘Bolshevik’, as thats what they called themselves at the time of the events.
The fact is that the Bolshevik takeover did, indeed concretely demonstrate that the threat was real, and could happen anywhere. That Rand saw a slippery slope is much to her credit. Unlike many others, she had the good sense to connect the dots—the first huge ‘dot’ being Lenin.
Okay, now for ‘freedom’….part 2
Jeff’s use of ‘self-evident’ is not ‘unfortunate’. Only a lack of clarity is that, and ‘self-evident isn’t. Rather, ‘self-evident’ is the common transcription of the legal, ‘prima facie’. Self-evident means ‘true on face value’, therefore not needing an explanation.
Of course, it was, indeed, common middlebrow English to speak of ‘natural right’ as meaning ‘self-evident’. Rights held to be ‘self-evident’ are so because they’re ‘natural’.
‘Natural right’ was proposed by Locke in his debate over divine right of kings. But as Berkeley wrote, he lost. In the Aristotelian sense, ‘natural’ means ‘so much in clear evidence that its existence is said to be self-evident. or ‘obvious’.
But what was ‘self-evidently true at that time was the existence of powerful monarchs everywhere. Obviously, said Berkeley god ordained this ‘natural state—otherwise it would not exist!
But, actually, Berkeley was a good guy who sympathized with where Locke, mere amateur, wanted to go. So with lots of his help, Locke re-formulated ‘natural’ to be that of all our common human aspirations. But it no longer meant, ‘self-evident by virtue of what we can observe of the real world’. In other words, Aristotle was turned on his head.
Hence, we see the schitz between the empirical self-evident and the mental state of natural rights. This is more or less the model, as it were, that Kant, some 70 years later, developed onto the phenomenal and neumenal worlds.
In sum, ‘natural rights’ are a mental frame of reference that overcomes the objectively self-evident. For Spinoza, the mental frame was striving (conatus), for Hume, imagination, and for Kant, the sublime.
All of this, of course, would have been totally confusing to anyone who would write, “Laws of nature and of nature’s God…self-evident truths…endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights….” There is no evidence, anywhere, that Jeff understood The Enlightenment .
Lastly, the fact that Jeff was a slave-owner is not a moral judgment. It was how life in 1770-ish Virginia defined life in terms of social relations, love it or leave it. For example, I believe that he really did love Sally; he was forbidden to marry her by state law.
Rather the ‘WTF’ issue revolves around the myth that he was more than just a genteel slave-owner. So after we realize that Wash would not a have cut down a cherry tree, anyway, and lied as much as anyone else, and was an obsessive social-climber to boot, we still have the notion that some Founding Father must have been an inveterate reader of all things enlightened.
Well, it was probably Franklin, Adams, and Payne, supercharged Rousseauite that he was. All boring new Englanders, who really didn’t think much of saying cuties such as,“The government that governs best, governs least”. (or as Adams would retort, “What’s ‘least’ about being ‘necessary?)
OTH, Jeff was a poseur who collected wine and books to impress his slightly less-educated fellow landowners. He became a powerful national figure because Virginia was the largest state.
As for your last paragraph, the Dutch Republic came into being 100 years before America. The English king’s power was delimited by consent in 1688. Common Sense, as written on both sides of the lake (Pitt, Payne), indicated that America should become its own formal self-governing political entity because in great part it alwyts was.
As for the democratic process, there are lots of specific reasons why we can be proud: universal suffrage for free males in 1828, for example, some 40 years ahead of the Brits. In general, we’re contributors to a general evolution towards more freedom—pushing and pulling, as it were, my ancestors the Hungarians and Greeks, along behind.
Jeff is simply given far too much credit, at the ostensible expense of the more worthy.