The Transformation of Aristotelian Political Epistemology in Eighteenth-Century American Constitutional Discourse

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What is the pursuit of happiness? This is one of the central questions addressed in this study. It examines the extensive ideological genealogy of the concept, whose roots are firmly grounded in Aristotelian political science. The concept of happiness was an indispensable part of a republican theory of government that influenced classical philosophers, the American founding fathers, and generations of other Aristotelians. This monograph examines the ‘pursuit of happiness’ by Revolutionary-era Americans and their ideological predecessors. It is also the story of the increasing irrelevance of metaphysics-centered philosophies, of continual attempts to reconcile Aristotelian political priorities with seemingly incompatible epistemological sensibilities, and of the rise of an epistemology-centered positive science in post-Revolutionary America.


“…readers cannot help but be impressed by the breadth and depth of Dr. Han’s scholarship. In books about the American founding we are used to smart and thoughtful discussions of Hume and Locke, but with Dr. Han, we also get Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hale, and much, much more. There can be no question that this work represents an extraordinary synthesis of a vitally important tradition in western political theory, as well as a successful attempt to link that tradition to related strands of thought in western jurisprudence. It also articulates a provocative and innovative argument about how we should view the American founding in the broader stream of historical deliberation on the relationship between well-ordered politics and human happiness.. For these reasons and for others, which lucky readers will discover on their own, this volume has earned a spot in the canon of satisfying and stimulating intellectual history.” - Howard Gillman, University of Southern California

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
Introduction: Historiography and Methodology
1. The Origins of Aristotelian Political Philosophy
2. Machiavelli’s Adaptation of Aristotelianism
3. Aristotelianism in English Legal Historiography
4. Aristotelian Republicanism and John Locke
5. The Demise of Aristotelian Realism in America
6. Conclusion: The Uncertain Legacy of Constitutional Certitude
Bibliography; Index

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