Jeremy Bentham, British reformer and "father of utilitarianism," who also wrote the rebuttal to the Declaration of Independence the British government distributed to several hundred soldiers on the ground in the colonies, declared rights "nonsense upon stilts." He wanted to justify political claims on political processes and social good rather than on metaphysical concepts like "rights" that clearly had no basis in reality. Which do you think is a better political approach: rights or utility? How would Susan B. Anthony's argument look different if the Declaration of Independence had been based on principles of utility? Do you think the document would have had the same degree of enduring inspirational power if it had been based on utility rather than "self-evident" "natural rights"?

Instruction:

Hello Please read the instruction and do the coursework.

  • Readings: Jefferson, “Declaration of Independence;”Federalist Papers #10, 51, 57, 72

http://www.constitution.org/usdeclar.htm

 

Questions

  1. Speech, Terrorism and Tyranny Worth considering – compare this case with the week’s readings, and topic of “Liberty through Rational Institutions” as well as the module topic of “The Problem of Liberty”:http://www.salon.com/2012/04/13/the_real_criminals_in_the_tarek_mehanna_case/singleton/
  2. The political theory of the Federalists:What relationship do you see between the Federalists and authors we covered earlier in the course with respect to political objectives, arguments and solutions?
  3. Natural rights and Bentham’s right:Jeremy Bentham, British reformer and “father of utilitarianism,” who also wrote the rebuttal to the Declaration of Independence the British government distributed to several hundred soldiers on the ground in the colonies, declared rights “nonsense upon stilts.” He wanted to justify political claims on political processes and social good rather than on metaphysical concepts like “rights” that clearly had no basis in reality. Which do you think is a better political approach: rights or utility? How would Susan B. Anthony’s argument look different if the Declaration of Independence had been based on principles of utility? Do you think the document would have had the same degree of enduring inspirational power if it had been based on utility rather than “self-evident” “natural rights”?
  4. The new American “people”:One of the several things the Declaration of Independence does is declare the colonists to be “a people”. What would Rousseau say about Jefferson’s assertion? Were the colonists “a people”? Did they become one through the war or do they remain distinct “general wills” until some later point?
  5. Revolutions and governing:different agendas: What differences do you notice between the two documents (Declaration and Consitution)? How do the differences reflect the practical purpose of each?

 

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