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Old 01-25-2005, 12:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Founding Fathers? So what?

I've noted with interest that many posters here, on both sides of the political debate, often resort to quoting George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton etc, as if this gives their argument some additional moral weight.

I say "So what?"

The fact that someone said something (more often taken out of context than not) over two hundred years ago, means very little and has almost no relevance to today's society. People here say "the Founding Fathers never envisaged that [such and such] would be interpreted that way" or "the Founding Fathers never imagined [such and such] when they wrote the Constitution".

Guess what? The Founding Fathers never imagined microwave popcorn, Cheez Whiz or Viagra either.

Using their opinions, which were products of their time and environment, to justify such things as support for fully automatic weapons, hard-core pornography, abortion, prayer in schools or the right to wear a t-shirt with someone's face on it is... well, is just plain stupid. Why the almost revertional breath-taking when someone whips out a quotation?

Ireland is a relatively new country. Our nation was born out of an armed struggle against the British Crown (not, in theory, unlike yours). Today these people would be considered terrorists. They bombed, murdered, tortured, intimidated their way to achieving a free and democractic nation for the majority of Irish people. Yet very few Irish would consider using some of their phrases to justify actions today. People look back, not with fondness, but with understanding; proud of our achievements but (almost) embarrassed by some of the means by which they were achieved.

Why not so America?

Many of your Founding Fathers were slave holders. Is that something to be proud of? You don't often hear that bandied about to make a political point. Now, I'm not disrespecting your history. You should be rightfully proud of it. I just can't understand why some believe making reference to someone, who died over 200 years ago and was a product of their time, and made a particular comment, makes their argument any more "righteous" or "valid". It doesn't.

Just an interesting (and interested) observation of behaviour on both sides of the political divide. Your independence was won long ago.

Let go. Move on.


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Old 01-25-2005, 12:33 PM   #2 (permalink)
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No.

The ideals, principles, and morals that this country was founded on, those held by the founding fathers, gave birth to the best country that has ever been on the planet. Why should we forget it? These men weren't perfect, but some things can and should withstand time, their ideals and principles, the ones that guided this country to greatness, should never be forgetten. It's almost insulting.

What dictates this constant notion of change, always looking forward, never back?
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Old 01-25-2005, 12:35 PM   #3 (permalink)
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We try to hold them up as moral and right figures because we need such moral figures to follow. It is difficult enough to try to be moral as it is, but without a figure to follow it seems even less possible. Yes, none of them were the moral, righteous, brilliant, tollerant, superphilosophers we make them out to be, but we need them to be that for us. We need them the way Christians need Jesus (not to say Jesus didn't exist, but he represents the ultimate figure to look up to).

Any excuse to be moral is a good excuse.
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Old 01-25-2005, 12:36 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mojo
No.

The ideals, principles, and morals that this country was founded on, those held by the founding fathers, gave birth to the best country that has ever been on the planet. Why should we forget it? These men weren't perfect, but some things can and should withstand time, their ideals and principles, the ones that guided this country to greatness, should never be forgetten. It's almost insulting.
It's almost insulting?!

Boy, even after all these years you still don't know me that well.

Where did I ask you to forget anything?

Reread the post, without the knee-jerk emotional reaction, and let me know why "quoting" a dead person makes your point any more valid?

Does that mean Presidents and Cheif Justices of the past (say 150 years) are any less special? Are their opinions not just as valid? Or do you think that modern America is just the same as the British colonies of the 18th century?

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Old 01-25-2005, 12:38 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I personally don't consider it an insult. Mephisto is right in pointing out the faults of those who are exalted, because it is right to point out that there are other, more fitting figures in history that we should be looking up to.

It's important to remember that no one is perfect, though.

Last edited by Willravel; 01-25-2005 at 12:51 PM.. Reason: added the word ""personally" to avoid my speaking for anyone else
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Old 01-25-2005, 12:40 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willravel
Any excuse to be moral is a good excuse.
And you can't make that decision on your own?

I'm just curious. Mojo thinks I'm [almost] insulting his "Americanism"; whatever.

I just can't see why you think that referring to what an 200 year dead slave-holder wrote in his diary, or a personal letter, can help you dedice on the morality of stem cell research (for example).

Maybe it's just me. America is a land that pushes the borders and brings the world into the future, yet clings to the past at the same time. I think it's notable and worth commenting upon.

No "insult" intended.


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Old 01-25-2005, 12:41 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I stopped short of asserting that it was insulting. But most importantly I personally find it insulting because in my opinion (not saying you intended it as such, just seems like a dense comment), it seems your post nullifys the past, what these men struggled to create, it's apart of my history.

It's like saying we shouldn't aspire to play good fundamental basketball like say Larry Bird, his game was a product of his enviroment and time, he is one of the greatest. We don't play like him, and it's odd we have shittier defense, less scoring, worse shooting percentages, and no fundamentals.
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Old 01-25-2005, 12:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Mephisto
And you can't make that decision on your own?

I'm just curious. Mojo thinks I'm [almost] insulting his "Americanism"; whatever.

I just can't see why you think that referring to what an 200 year dead slave-holder wrote in his diary, or a personal letter, can help you dedice on the morality of stem cell research (for example).

Maybe it's just me. America is a land that pushes the borders and brings the world into the future, yet clings to the past at the same time. I think it's notable and worth commenting upon.

No "insult" intended.


Mr Mephisto
I personally don't need the lies. They have plenty to teach me without lies and exaggerations. BUT, the average american (at least 51%, I'll bet) probably needs this in order to feel a connection to morality, equality, and things of that nature. We obviously don't have leaders in this country who are willing to be examples by being moral, so there is a vaccume.

A lot of important figures in history had slaves. It's morally reprehensible, but that doesn't change the good they did. The Constitution of the United States of America is one of the most brilliant writings I've ever read, and when I pledge my life to my country I pledge my life not only to the citizens of this country, but to that document.

A connection to the future is not complete without a connection to the past. Seriously.
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Old 01-25-2005, 12:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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OK, that's fair enough.

I have more to say on this subject, but I have a meeting to get to.

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Old 01-25-2005, 01:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Do you believe that the politicians that currently occupy politics today could come up with the same compromise and set the same precedent in running a nation that those men did? I don't so much look to their wisdom from a point of their own personal lives but of their political lives, minds, and decisions. That is why their words do mean something important to me.

Don't agree that's okay man. Problem with arguments is people get so defensive, chances are your not going to change people's minds but they will recognize your point. I recognize your point, but I still disagree with it.
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Old 01-25-2005, 02:49 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theusername
I recognize your point, but I still disagree with it.
That quoting Jefferson makes your point more valid than someone else's?

It's not the respect you have for these men that's the question, but the habit of using them to justify one's position.

It's akin to quoting the Bible to make a point. All countries have great leaders, but not all people constantly refer to their utterances as gospel, as validation for a particular point of view.

If I have an opinion and you disagree, and quote Hamilton to support your disagreement, why does that make you "right" and me "wrong"?


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Old 01-25-2005, 03:09 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Because they were wicked intelligent and their idea's gave birth to one of the most effective (in it's times, notice the problems as we have strayed and time has elapsed) and brilliant forms of government ever concieved. Also the influence they had on the world and how countries have modeled off their ideas. In short how they changed the name of the game of politics, government, liberty, etc... they are an authority.
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Old 01-25-2005, 03:33 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Mr. Mephisto,

I think we do this because we're metaphorical creatures. We tend to explain things through metaphor. Instead of lengthy explanations to get a point across, we quote our founding fathers to illustrate a point. I believe that what they established was one of the most fair forms of government to exist to this point. The problem is that our nation has evolved to the extent that our current form of government, in operation, would largely be unrecognizable to our founding fathers.

We tend to overlook their shortcomings because what they did in the establishment of our nation outweighs any personal foibles they possessed. The irony, I believe, is that not a single one of them would ever be successful in today's political climate where we insist that our political leaders be morally infallible in thought and deed.

Quoting them makes us feel as if our opinions have precedence, and therefore validity, regardless of actuality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mojo_PeiPei
Because they were wicked intelligent and their idea's gave birth to one of the most effective (in it's times, notice the problems as we have strayed and time has elapsed) and brilliant forms of government ever concieved. Also the influence they had on the world and how countries have modeled off their ideas. In short how they changed the name of the game of politics, government, liberty, etc... they are an authority.
Some of them were pretty smart, I'll agree, but they were no more intelligent than anyone else of their caliber living today. The problem is that there is no one of their caliber alive today, simply because of the fact that we micro-critique our politicians to the point that none can live up to our artificial standards. What makes them so great is that they thoroughly thought through their plans in a meticulous fashion. There weren't focus groups and political advisors whispering into their ear back in 1789, throwing out poll numbers and risk assessments. They were free to work their political magic, so to speak, so we could benefit in later years.
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Old 01-25-2005, 03:53 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I agree mephisto. An argument should stand on its own merits, and frankly, whether the words of someone who died centuries ago can be manipulated into an effective support for a contemporary argument is irrelevant. Unless it can be shown that said figure was omnipresent and infallible. I don't need to know what "you" think george washington would've thought, because all that is is "your" out of context interpretation of something george washington said. How many mathematicians argue a proof based on their interpretation of what descartes might've thought? None. Because what descartes thought is completely irrelevant to whether said proof is valid or not. What some dead guy thought does not a convincing argument make.
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Old 01-25-2005, 03:54 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Mephisto
That quoting Jefferson makes your point more valid than someone else's?

It's not the respect you have for these men that's the question, but the habit of using them to justify one's position.

It's akin to quoting the Bible to make a point. All countries have great leaders, but not all people constantly refer to their utterances as gospel, as validation for a particular point of view.

If I have an opinion and you disagree, and quote Hamilton to support your disagreement, why does that make you "right" and me "wrong"?


Mr Mephisto
When I disagree with someone about something, it helps the situation to find an entity we both agree with in order to lend credibility to my argument. Presumably US citizens value the ideas of the founders of our nation, so when we disagree, one of us can point to someone we both value and claim, "look this person, who you usually agree with, agrees with me." Hopefully that encourages the other person to shelve personal disagreement or at least re-evaluate his or her position in light of the fact that other respectable people hold a similar opinion. People do quote Reagan and Clinton, but those two only hold relevance and validity to the people whose standpoints mesh with theirs. So we look back to a point of commonality: the fountainhead of our political identity--the founding people of this nation.

In the case of religion: it wouldn't make much sense for me to quote biblical passages to an atheist or even a Muslim to some extent. But if I was sitting down with a Lutheran, it would make sense for me to point out, "Martin Luther's position seems to be more in line with mine than yours." I might have to refer to Allah if speaking to a Muslim. I'd have to find a point where the beliefs converged, like using a reference from Genesis to create commonality between someone following Judaism and another following Catholicism. I couldn't really refer to the Pope as an authority--except to other Catholics.

To the atheist, I might have to refer to Plato. I might even point out similarities between Socrates and Jesus. This is all intended to create a sense of higher level unity--one that supercedes the immediate schism in the argument.

"If you don't believe me, believe this guy who you normally hold in high regard."
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Old 01-25-2005, 04:01 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I find that the two most common places where people start digging up quotes are in issues of gun control and separation of church and state. Usually these quotes are so taken out of context that they are misleading at best and down right misleading or dishonest at worst.

If religion is the issue, you have to consider that yes, the founding fathers were made up of people that held strong views that greatly opposed each other. There were the fundies that wanted everyone to know that America is a Christian nation and everything revolves around the glory of God and the athiests or deists that wanted to appease them to some extent but keep the two institutions as seperate as possible.
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Old 01-25-2005, 04:07 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Well that and the fact that history often lends good remembrance and less nit picking compared to things in any present time frame.
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Old 01-25-2005, 04:15 PM   #18 (permalink)
 
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this would have the form of a parlor game question were it not for "movements" like the federalist society, which wraps conservatism around the "original intent" doctrine for reading the constitution. the idea they seem to have is little more than a tactic for "limiting judicial activism" which i assume is code for limiting the mobility of judges with whom they do not agree politically to render decisions.

the notion of "original intent" is wholly absurd, of course. it seems to presuppose some kind of communion on the part of these conservatives and the spirits of "the founders"---the idea seems to be that you could derive intent from the various documents that surrounded the making of the constitution. this procedure has all kinds of problems, ranging from questions of which ancillary documents you would privelege to problems of making these documents into de facto law to the ridiculous assumption that you can reconstruct "intent" from texts. so i assume that, behind the scenes, ouija boards play a role in this. or channelling. or something like that.

the fetishism of the "founders" is wholly at odds with the system they put into place. you might think that it was a smart compromise, this system, if you like----but that it might be seen that way in no way has to translate into a fixation on the persons of those who put the outline of it together. the idea of the whole system was that it would be reactive to history, while having certain checks in place. the direction taken by those who fetishize the founders as people runs directly counter to this--in practice in the bizarre little world of conservative law students, in principle in the bigger world of politics.

i think the psychological motive behind this kind of thing has less to do with people preferring to live via metaphor (which is an interesting claim if you route it through nietzsche, but which seems kinda out of place here to me) than with conservatives in general being afraid of history in any strong sense because they know they cannot control it.
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Old 01-25-2005, 04:26 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Mephisto
I've noted with interest that many posters here, on both sides of the political debate, often resort to quoting George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton etc, as if this gives their argument some additional moral weight.

Using their opinions, which were products of their time and environment, to justify such things as support for fully automatic weapons, hard-core pornography, abortion, prayer in schools or the right to wear a t-shirt with someone's face on it is... well, is just plain stupid. Why the almost revertional breath-taking when someone whips out a quotation?
Because even with all their faults and the fact that they were a product of their time and out of date, many of us trust their judgement more than the modern day variety of what are loosely referred to as statesmen.

We are inclined to believe that at least for a short period of time, they put politics aside and tried to do the right thing. The times this happens in modern times seems to be very rare.
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Old 01-25-2005, 05:40 PM   #20 (permalink)
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This is great. It's refreshing to have a good discussion on Politics that (so far!) hasn't descended into party political bickerings.

Lots of interesting comments, to which I shall reply once I get home and get some food.


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Old 01-25-2005, 05:50 PM   #21 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Mephisto
I just can't understand why some believe making reference to someone, who died over 200 years ago and was a product of their time, and made a particular comment, makes their argument any more "righteous" or "valid". It doesn't.
I agree and would extend the argument to include the bible. Why is it that every discussion regarding morality inevitably ends up with bible quotes? Why would anyone use the bible as a reference to convince a heathen like me?
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Old 01-25-2005, 06:13 PM   #22 (permalink)
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The quotes in themselves are quite worthless by themselves. Also, most quotations
referring to something else, ie, one historian quoting another historian about a particular
point in their own references to some event, should only be used to support, not
be the arguement.

I agree that saying what the Founding Fathers said about this has nothing really to do
with that. What some are putting forth here is that the moral guidelines used by the
FF are, in a way, used to say that, they acted this way, and so should we.
This really doesn't work either, because as Mephisto said earlier, they lived under a
completely different set of philosophies. Although views on ethics should
could be used, since most people agree on a certain number of ethics, but
we'll leave those out of the arguement, as they're too broad for the very
specific and new problems of today.

But its' also not fair to say that the men back then who helped build our country were
in any way bad men, because of some of the things in society they did. Using Thomas
Jefferson as an example (basically because he's the one I know alot about) tried
serveral times, unsuccessfully to pass laws in the Viriginia Congress that made it
so you didn't have to be a slaveholder to hold position in the Congress. At least on
his part, the necessity of holding slaves made it possible to what he needed to do.
Whether this could be considered ethical on his part is not my decision to make.

So I guess, reading through this, it surely isn't necessary, nor at all wise, to make
references to the Founding Fathers in whatever arguement you are trying to make.
The entire set of 'variables' in our problems are remarkably different from their's, and
unless we're talking about general ethical problems, or philosophies of one kind or
another, there are plenty of other sources that could be used to support your
views - being that some old philosophies, for the most part, are considered 'good' by
a large majority of people and could help shape your arguements.

Also, I think that many people use the Founding Fathers as references because of the
grand status they have received over the years, mainly through crappy history
textbooks, lack of knowledge, etc... Now, while they did help to shape our country,
as said earlier, by others, the use of their own morals and actions should be left out
of most of today's issues - simply because of the dramatic difference
between their's and our's..
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Old 01-25-2005, 07:19 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Point: History has no moral authority over the present.

Point: We cannot resort to a kind of hero-worship and blindly follow our forerunners just because of the great things they did.

Counterpoint: We cannot completely understand our present without understanding our past.

Counterpoint: We cannot dismiss those who came before us and shaped how we live today.

Quote: "At its best American history is a conversation with the dead about what we should value and how we should live" ~David Harlan

By studying history, we can attempt to understand a world that no longer exists in order to have a vantage point to try and look at our own world with fresh eyes. In the case of America's founding fathers, their beliefs help shape the nation today, but their beliefs do not completely encompass what we presently are.

Understanding the revolutionary generation helps us understand how we got to where we are, but now what or why we should be whatever we choose. Human history is an evolution and we cannot live in the past no matter how much some people may want to... On the same token, we cannot escape the past however much some people may try to. History is a symbiotic relationship... But it does not own us.
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Old 01-25-2005, 07:55 PM   #24 (permalink)
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i place great weight on the words of our founding fathers because history shows them to be men of brilliance, beautiful articulation, conviction, sound leadership quality and scientific genius. those traits are all part of what i want to be in this world. also, i feel the wisdom that can be gleaned from studying/placing weight in their counsel transcends contextual differences because those areas of the human experience are not subject to much change.

the primary objections to using our founding fathers as our baseline for how we should approach our present-day issues are often rooted in either...

-the unspoken premise that nearly all change is good. therefore, what we did 200 years ago cannot be as good as what we feel to be correct in the present-day. i disagree with this. civilization can progress and regress with equal velocity.

-charges of taking a quote out of context. this is nearly always a claim made by someone who opposes the other's perspective. the power of the founding fathers is so great in the public's imagination that all try to coopt their wisdom to create political capital. you'll rarely hear anyone (no matter how extreme their view or provably false their claim) draw clear lines between them and the founding fathers.
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Old 01-25-2005, 08:06 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Correct! Abolish quotation marks. They're tools for manipulation. Like Words! Fuck words, they're always messing things up for me.

Ok so no founding pappy quotes, but you have to take all the fancy things all those greek fellows said and keep them out of debate. Nietzsche? Not when you talk to me. That doesn't lend credibility to your arguement. Their antiquated world holds no relevance here.

Did they even have things like differing political opinions, war, intranational strife, unneeded violence, bigotry, and religion? I'm pretty sure those were invented in '63 in a lab at the University of Houston.

Poll results are sometimes wrong so no more of them. Research has to be filtered by the perogotives of those who report results so scratch that.

Those from the north can't understand how the heat affects my brain, or my irrational fear of snow, so yanks, please cease and desist your posting. Your opinions are not relevant.

And by that rationale, since I cannot fathom going for more than a month without passing a cow on the side of the road, I'm afraid my views cannot further my opinions with many urbanites, so, I'll shut up now.

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Old 01-25-2005, 10:13 PM   #26 (permalink)
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I don't think anyone would think these men were perfect, but they did help put the country together, and give it a good kick in the butt to get it started.
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Old 01-25-2005, 11:49 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filtherton
I agree mephisto. An argument should stand on its own merits, and frankly, whether the words of someone who died centuries ago can be manipulated into an effective support for a contemporary argument is irrelevant. Unless it can be shown that said figure was omnipresent and infallible. I don't need to know what "you" think george washington would've thought, because all that is is "your" out of context interpretation of something george washington said. How many mathematicians argue a proof based on their interpretation of what descartes might've thought? None. Because what descartes thought is completely irrelevant to whether said proof is valid or not. What some dead guy thought does not a convincing argument make.

What do you think of stare decisis then? If you cannot base current situations on what others before you believed, you cannot have precedent in a legal system.

That being said, I also agree that the "founding fathers" are often overused to debate certain points, not because I don't think previous thinkers should be cited but because I don't believe that these particular thinkers are as good as advertised.

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Old 01-26-2005, 12:04 AM   #28 (permalink)
Junkie
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by roachboy
this would have the form of a parlor game question were it not for "movements" like the federalist society, which wraps conservatism around the "original intent" doctrine for reading the constitution. the idea they seem to have is little more than a tactic for "limiting judicial activism" which i assume is code for limiting the mobility of judges with whom they do not agree politically to render decisions.

the notion of "original intent" is wholly absurd, of course. it seems to presuppose some kind of communion on the part of these conservatives and the spirits of "the founders"---the idea seems to be that you could derive intent from the various documents that surrounded the making of the constitution. this procedure has all kinds of problems, ranging from questions of which ancillary documents you would privelege to problems of making these documents into de facto law to the ridiculous assumption that you can reconstruct "intent" from texts. so i assume that, behind the scenes, ouija boards play a role in this. or channelling. or something like that.

the fetishism of the "founders" is wholly at odds with the system they put into place. you might think that it was a smart compromise, this system, if you like----but that it might be seen that way in no way has to translate into a fixation on the persons of those who put the outline of it together. the idea of the whole system was that it would be reactive to history, while having certain checks in place. the direction taken by those who fetishize the founders as people runs directly counter to this--in practice in the bizarre little world of conservative law students, in principle in the bigger world of politics.

i think the psychological motive behind this kind of thing has less to do with people preferring to live via metaphor (which is an interesting claim if you route it through nietzsche, but which seems kinda out of place here to me) than with conservatives in general being afraid of history in any strong sense because they know they cannot control it.
I find it highly amusing that you criticise people for their fetishism of using the founders to support an arguement while at the same time trying to support your own viewpoint in terms of what their system was supposed to be. Honestly, your view on what their system is supposed to be is not inherently better than other peoples simply because you didn't mention a founder by name. What makes citing them at odds with the system? Did you use your ouija board to ask them? And why do you only claim conservatives use the founders for debating? The original poster mentioned both sides, but you instatnly assumed that this "fetishism" is only a product of some vast conservative conclave.
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Old 01-26-2005, 01:58 AM   #29 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meepa
Counterpoint: We cannot completely understand our present without understanding our past.
understanding the past is certanly a very good thing, but over glorification is a bad thing. And personally I got the feeling that a lot of people see the founding fathers as too glorious people (same as a lot americans seem to have a nationalistic, overly glorious view of their nation, but thats another topic). This kind of view prevents to see the errors those people made.
They were smart (the pharse "we the people" alone is great, at that time most european nation still had some sort of "gods will" in their laws and constitutions...) but they surely made errors, noone is perfect
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Old 01-26-2005, 03:45 AM   #30 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Paradise Lost
Also, I think that many people use the Founding Fathers as references because of the grand status they have received over the years, mainly through crappy history textbooks, lack of knowledge, etc... Now, while they did help to shape our country, as said earlier, by others, the use of their own morals and actions should be left out of most of today's issues - simply because of the dramatic difference between their's and our's..
I agree that there is a big difference in our world today and theirs. I'm no lawyer but don't a lot of constitutional questions brought up in the courts today get argued by both sides as to what the author's intents were? For example aren't folks on both sides of the gun control issue trying to interpret what the authors of the the second amendment really meant to justify their position. Isn't it logical to try and discern what the writers had in mind by quoting some of their sayings and deeds at the time they wrote it? Then if we believe the amendment no longer suits our modern society we have to amend the constitution (Bill of Rights) to change it.

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Old 01-26-2005, 03:52 AM   #31 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by flstf
I agree that there is a big difference in our world today and theirs. I'm no lawyer but don't a lot of constitutional questions brought up in the courts today get argued by both sides as to what the author's intents were? For example aren't folks on both sides of the gun control issue trying to interpret what the authors of the the second amendment really meant to justify their position. Isn't it logical to try and discern what the writers had in mind by quoting some of their sayings and deeds at the time they wrote it? Then if we believe the amendment no longer suits our modern society we have to amend the constitution (Bill of Rights) to change it.
the problem, of course, is who the heck are these "writers?"

I would quote a huge section from Feinman's book, Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About the American Legal System, but I think I may just provide a reference: p. 19-22.

Keep in mind that the constitution was drafted and argued over by state delegates. You know how Congress passes legislation now? Laws are negotiated and debated, and re-negotiated until nothing like the drafters of any particular bill would say that it contains his or her "original" intent. Do we look at a few men's statements on a particular subject?

Shouldn't we look to all the documents to try and ascertain something like original context? All the minutes of the debates, all the notes from the journals of all the diverse state delegates (who happened to shift over time, as well), and on and on...?

Pick up that book and leaf through those 4 pages so I don't have to type them, please.
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Old 01-26-2005, 04:09 AM   #32 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by smooth
the problem, of course, is who the heck are these "writers?"

I would quote a huge section from Feinman's book, Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About the American Legal System, but I think I may just provide a reference: p. 19-22.
---cut---
Pick up that book and leaf through those 4 pages so I don't have to type them, please.
OK I will the next time I'm at the library. But until then I am answering the original poster's question of why we should pay attention to what these guys said, because I believe we need to know what they were thinking in order to interpret the laws (constitution, bill of rights) that they wrote. I also believe that many of us trust their judgement more than today's politically charged courts and polititians. Like I said, I'm not a lawyer and this type of thinking may not make legal sense to one schooled in the law.
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Old 01-26-2005, 05:23 AM   #33 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by flstf
OK I will the next time I'm at the library. But until then I am answering the original poster's question of why we should pay attention to what these guys said, because I believe we need to know what they were thinking in order to interpret the laws (constitution, bill of rights) that they wrote.
This is the crux of the issue. If we do not venerate the founders, then our entire system of government is thrown into question, and we can't have that, now can we? I never met Washington or Jefferson or Adams or Franklin. I don't know if they were good men or not. I know what has been written about their victory by a worshipful society.
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Old 01-26-2005, 03:06 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by alansmithee
What do you think of stare decisis then? If you cannot base current situations on what others before you believed, you cannot have precedent in a legal system.
I think courtroom rules have little to do with how arguments are formed and executed outside of a courtroom setting. I also think that judicial precedent leaves a lot less room for interpretation than do random quotations from historical figures. Maybe i'm wrong though, i'm no lawyer.
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Old 01-26-2005, 03:34 PM   #35 (permalink)
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"I was also looking forward to this opportunity to dispel some of the mythology surrounding myself and my fellow founders-particularly the myth of our infallibility...." "We had flaws. Adams was a unbearable prick and squeeled girlishly whenever he saw a bug. And Ben Franklin? If crack existed in our day, that boozed-up snuff machine would weigh 80 punds and live outside the Port Authority. And I had slaves. Damn, I can't believe I had slaves!..."
-Thomas "T.J" Jefferson
as quoted in "America(the book)"
and if you take this seriously....I will pity you...

on a more serious note I think that you can use them to back you up...but they aren't arguement enders. How dated their words are does hurt their application to today's society. However when people say that we should do something because this is what the founding fathers "intended" it's bull...unless you can channel their soul...oh man would that be kinda cool...
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Old 01-26-2005, 04:02 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Mr Mephisto
Many of your Founding Fathers were slave holders. Is that something to be proud of
nope, and it's part of the reason i look upon our history with disdain, as many of the things they said and wrote couldn't have applied to "all men"... not to mention, quoting a guy who was both a slave holder/owner and cheated on his wife to sleep with one... idk... while i understand that some of the things they wrote were powerful, when i think about the context in which they wrote and said things...

seems like i'm in the minority here, but that's normal for me.
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Old 01-26-2005, 04:21 PM   #37 (permalink)
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People should just say "...because it is(n't) the right thing to do" instead of "...because it is(n't) what the founding fathers wanted". We should not own slaves. Why? It is the wrong thing to do. We should not be rageing alcoholics. Why? It is the wrong thing to do.
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Old 01-27-2005, 01:34 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Mr Mephisto
It's almost insulting?!

Does that mean Presidents and Cheif Justices of the past (say 150 years) are any less special? Are their opinions not just as valid? Or do you think that modern America is just the same as the British colonies of the 18th century?
Lots of others are quoted although I don't see it here a lot but I do at several other boards I frequent. Men like Lincoln, FDR, Woodrow Wilson, Oliver Wendall Holmes, and JFK, just to name a few, come to mind. All are often quoted in the heat of political debate and carry the same relative weight of some of the Founding Fathers.

I think it also has to do with the relative numbers too. I am not sure that at other single time and place in history were so many intellectual giants assembled in one place. You can go back through history and pick men by the ones, twos and threes but not by the dozens. If numbered out the Founding Fathers are some 3 dozen, give or take, all in one time and place. Oh sure, most do not get quoted and remain in the shadows behind the names of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, and Adams but that does not lessen them.

This is a group of men whose ideals in government were so revolutionary that while the land their country inhabits is young on the stage of the world, the government they founded is one of the oldest in existance today. The document they wrote is flexible enough to deal with all but the most space age of issues and has only been amended 17 times since originally being adopted. They were great visionaries.

Perfect? Hardly. I guess Washington was as close you could get in that group and even he was a slave holder. However, he was above reproach for the day and that is what we need to remember. Who of us can predict what ordinary everyday thing in our lives will come to be reviled by future generations and cause us to be judged as less than we are seen as today?
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