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R. Ariara

Thomas Jefferson's "Self-Evident" Argument

Thomas Jefferson famously stated the following:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

It seems like he's arguing that the following are self-evident:

-All Men Are Created Equal

-All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

-Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

-Power should derive from the consent of the governed

-The people should have the right to abolish a wayward government & replace it with a new one.

 

Does Thomas Jefferson's famous argument commit the appeal to self-evident truth fallacy? If not, how did he logically reach such conclusions?

asked on Monday, Jan 11, 2021 04:07:18 PM by R. Ariara

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Bo Bennett, PhD
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This version of "self-evident" is more like poetry and declarations than anything else. It is debatable how much of an "argument" this is, so not sure if fallacy or not.

answered on Monday, Jan 11, 2021 05:40:38 PM by Bo Bennett, PhD

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R. Ariara writes:

Couldn't we say that there's an underlying argument beneath his claims in the declaration? If it's debatable, then what are the arguments that would support this famous declaration being an argument rather than just poetry?

Surely, this famous claim/declaration/argument wasn't self-evident to King George or those who were loyal to the British crown.

posted on Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 12:36:53 AM
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GoblinCookie writes:
[To R. Ariara]

 

Couldn't we say that there's an underlying argument beneath his claims in the declaration? If it's debatable, then what are the arguments that would support this famous declaration being an argument rather than just poetry?

Surely, this famous claim/declaration/argument wasn't self-evident to King George or those who were loyal to the British crown.

I don't think that those who were fighting for the British king would have actually argued against anything he was saying.  They would have instead argued that what they were doing was compatible with these self-evident truths because British rule was not 'destructive to those ends'.

Basically what Jefferson is also doing is an appeal to common belief.

 

[ login to reply ] posted on Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 07:04:08 AM
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R. Ariara writes:
[To GoblinCookie]

Really? So the British loyalists agreed with the ideas that King George was created equal to peasants, that they were born with rights that weren't alienable by the British monarchs, that King George's power should come from their consent, & that the loyalists should have the ability to overthrow the monarchs & create a new government? That sounds very surprising. What evidence is there to support this?

[ login to reply ] posted on Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 04:07:47 PM
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GoblinCookie writes:
[To R. Ariara]

That they are saying that it is self-evident, implies a wide consensus behind the ideas exists, at least in America.  You cannot go around saying something is self-evident without such a consensus existing, it just looks silly.

The document does not say that you have the right to withdraw consent to a government once it has been given, only that it (originally) derives from the consent of the governed.  The ground of dispute between the loyalists and Americans is whether the King has in fact violated the fundamental rights people believe they were granted by the creator.

The right to alter/overthrow government derives from it's violating of your fundamental rights.  So as long the King has not violated your fundamental rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, you are obligated to obey the King.  It is not an unconditional advocacy of democracy, the consent part is historical (before government existed people freely gave consent to be governed). 

The ability to decide their government in the present is entirely conditional.  If you read carefully, you will find the document is actually saying that UNLESS the present government violates their fundamental rights, they have no right to alter or abolish their government.  So if you believe the King has not violated his subject's fundamental rights, you are not justified in overthrowing him and are obligated to obey him.

[ login to reply ] posted on Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021 04:17:57 AM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To R. Ariara]

I guess my point is this document is not meant to be an argument, but a declaration—a written affirmation which all who follow already agree. "I am strong. I am special, etc." Anyone has every right to argue with the "self-evident" nature of these claims.

[ login to reply ] posted on Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021 08:12:18 AM