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The Declaration of Independence and God
Self-Evident Truths in American Law


  • Date Published: March 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107459045

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About the Authors
  • 'Self-evident truths' was a profound concept used by the drafters of the American Declaration of Independence to insist on their rights and freedom from oppressive government. How did this Enlightenment notion of self-evident human rights come to be used in this historic document and what is its true meaning? In The Declaration of Independence and God, Owen Anderson traces the concept of a self-evident creator through America's legal history. Starting from the Declaration of Independence, Anderson considers both challenges to belief in God from thinkers like Thomas Paine and American Darwinists, as well as modifications to the concept of God by theologians like Charles Finney and Paul Tillich. Combining history, philosophy and law in a unique focus, this book opens exciting new avenues for the study of America's legal history.

    • Offers readers unique insights on one of America's founding documents
    • Situates current debates about separation of church in state in historical context
    • The multidisciplinary approach will be of use to students and scholars in law, philosophy, history and religious studies
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This volume deepens our understanding of the foundations of our basic beliefs by analyzing the metaphysical and ethical foundations of the Declaration of Independence. Scholars and citizens alike will benefit from this subtle inquiry into the philosophical and theological underpinnings of that text. One might have thought there was nothing new and persuasive to say about the Declaration, but Anderson's excellent volume proves that wrong.' G. Alan Tarr, Board of Governors Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University, New Jersey

    'Anderson's book is a fast-paced, enthralling tour through the history of American religious thought from the Puritans to the present day, with the varying understandings of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence as the unifying thread. Anderson skillfully ties together the fundamental questions in epistemology ('we hold these truths to be self-evident'), metaphysics ('created equal'), political theory ('inalienable rights'), and ethics ('the pursuit of happiness'), as seen through the lens of America's evolving theological consensus.' Robert Koons, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin

    'Owen Anderson's The Declaration of Independence and God weaves a fine narrative. Political thinkers, philosophers and theologians such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Paul Tillich, Charles Finney and John Cobb, to name only a few, are highlighted as he guides readers through key patterns of American thought in its intertwined religious and legal history. Anderson illuminates how philosophical assumptions, in particular skepticism, have informed the Supreme Court as it has decided major cases involving religious liberty and abortion. Throughout the book he uses the language of the Declaration of Independence, 'America's creed' as he calls it, to investigate its metaphysics and ethics and unpack the meaning of 'God' and 'self-evident'. One of the book's provocative contributions is to chart a course between Christian and secular interpretations of the Declaration by considering seriously the common Enlightenment ground of natural religion from which it springs.' Paul Kerry, Associate Visiting Research Fellow, Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford and Associate Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Utah

    'Anderson's book concludes with an appeal for renewed attention to natural religion as a step toward regaining the political consensus enjoyed by earlier generations. … Whatever the future holds, however, Anderson's book helps us understand the present and its roots in the past.' Randy Beck, Journal of Church and State

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107459045
    • length: 216 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.32kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine
    2. The reformed influence on common sense philosophy
    3. Common sense and self-evident in law
    4. Intuition and the self-evident in law
    5. Naturalism, Darwinism, the self-evident, and law
    6. Revivalism, new religious movements, and law
    7. Liberal theology and legal transformations
    8. Secular and religious goods in the twentieth century

  • Author

    Owen Anderson, Arizona State University
    Owen Anderson is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. His books include The Natural Moral Law: The Good after Modernity (2013) and The Clarity of God's Existence (2008), which study the ethics of belief in God, how God can be known, and the knowledge of God as the highest good.

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