By John Ridpath
The United States of America, as Ayn Rand has dramatically demonstrated, is unique in human history. It is the only country ever to attempt to center its founding, and essence, on the moral principle of individual rights.
The idea that every individual has a moral right to his own life, and thus to all this implies, germinated slowly over centuries. In the eighteenth century, however, it broke forth in its fullest flower, and it was this that guided the heroic saga of America's founding.
Eighteenth-century thought, however, was not without its confusions, limitations and conflicts. And thus the Founding Fathers' grasp of what rights were, what they implied and how they were to be justified, was not clear or necessarily consistent.
These two lectures, while focusing on Thomas Jefferson, also examine the Founders' grasp of what rights were. From this we will be able to better appreciate their heroism within the context of their time and understanding. More profound, we will more fully understand the indispensability of a deep philosophic grounding to any true but derivative principle, such as rights, if it is to survive the onslaught of the philosophic underminers of human life.
This lecture was recorded at the 2004 Objectivist Summer Conference in Wintergreen, VA.
(MP3 download; 2 hrs., 52 min., with Q & A, 123.65 MB)