The ideas that inspired them were neither British nor Christian but largely ancient, pagan, and continental: the fecund universe of the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius, and the potent (but nontranscendent) natural divinity of the Dutch heretic Benedict de Spinoza.
Drawing deeply on his study of European philosophy, Matthew Stewart pursues a genealogy of the philosophical ideas from which America's revolutionaries drew their inspiration, all scrupulously researched and documented and enlivened with storytelling of the highest order. Along the way, he uncovers the true meanings of "Nature's God", "self-evident", and many other phrases crucial to our understanding of the American experiment but now widely misunderstood. Stewart's lucid and passionate investigation surprises, challenges, enlightens, and entertains at every turn, as it spins a true tale and a persuasive, exhilarating argument about the founding principles of American government and the sources of our success in science, medicine, and the arts.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Amazon Customer on 31-07-17
Truly an exceptionally great book about the history of ideas. Very scholarly and erudite, so some lay readers may find it dry, but is is written with such passion, eloquence and wit that a lover of truth will feel overpowered. For a philosopher, it melts on the tongue like a delicious frothy mouthful of whipped cream.
The performance is excellent, too, and foreign languages are generally correctly pronounced, although almost all of the material is in English.
The Epicurean, Spinozist legacy of modernity deserves to be revived - and what better way to do it than by a necromancer of such caliber!
All hail the Radical Enlightenment! All hail the Empire of Reason! All hail Equal Liberty!
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Caroline on 13-01-15
Excellent exploration of this subject
Stewart has written an excellent exploration of the philosophical groundwork that informed the religious and political thinking of the men who wrote the Declaration and the Constitution. He takes the unusual approach of weaving his story around the lives and deeds of Ethan Allen and Thomas Young (a fomenter of the Boston Tea Party and a mobile gadfly during the years leading up to the war).
The work is challenging but rewarding, as Stewart explicates the elements of texts by Lucretius, Bruno, Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, and Locke. He then shows how these ideas permeated the thinking, writing and activities of Allen and Young in particular, but also many other leading figures of the Revolution. This is a refutation of the idea that the founding fathers intended the country to be a Christian land, a refutation that is grounded in fact, not assertion.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
By SydSavvy on 30-09-15
Some of the chapters were long and disjointed, but otherwise this was an excellent study on a subject that mainstream Christian Americans either ignore or are ignorant of. Very interesting.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful