The Disease of Liberty

Thomas Jefferson, History, & Liberty: A Philosophical Analysis

by M. Andrew Holowchak

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A continually stimulating and comprehensive study of Jefferson's political thought in light of his conception of history and the proper writing of history. Holowchak has a philosophic eye as well as a masterful grasp of the primary and secondary sources.

Donald Livingston
Retired Prof. of Philosophy, Emory University
and past fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh

What makes this intelligently written volume important for anyone interested in Jefferson or in our Western culture in general is that modern democracy and human rights did not fall from the heavens. They were both man-made and began their slow evolution into the current liberty-centered notion of an individual because of Jefferson and other American founders. As Holowchak succinctly states, ‘There is no blueprint’ for a Jeffersonian republic, ‘because there is no precedent.’ This is why the American Revolution, Shays’ Rebellion, and the Revolution of 1800 are still worth studying for genuine understanding of ourselves. What is meant by liberty is a question worth asking again in our age of all kinds of neoliberalist ideologies, fundamentalisms, communitarianisms, conspiracy theories, wokeisms, and the like.

Ari Helo
University of Helsinki, Finland
author of 'Thomas Jefferson’s Ethics'

Liberty for Jefferson was 'the' driving force of human history and a realizable state of the human organism and of a society of men. Study of history and anthropology showed that humans were moving from the barbaric independence suffered in primal hordes, which lived inefficiently on lands, to a more economical, human-friendly use of land in social settings, demanding laws for order. Those laws, historically, favored the powerful few to the detriment of the hoi polloi. As a pupil of the Enlightenment, Jefferson argued that all humans were by nature equal, and thus, deserving of as much civic liberty as a reason-oriented and sciences-loving society, a Jeffersonian republic, could guarantee them. This book, philosophical, explains how such a society was possible, given Jefferson’s conception of the nature of man, and how the realization of one such society could lead, through contagion, to a global community of such societies. There are a large number of books that cover Jefferson’s political ideology (e.g., Gordon Wood’s 'Empire of Liberty' and Adrienne Koch’s 'The Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson')—too many to limn—but none that gets at the philosophical implications of TJ’s views on liberty. This book, examining TJ as a natural scientist and philosophy, examines and situates him in the manner of other great political ideologists of his day—e.g., Hume and Kant.


Part I. The Meaning of History
Chapter I Prolegomena to the Praxis of History
Chapter II Jefferson on the Praxis of History
Chapter III The Argument for Interested History

Part II. The Nature & Civic Possibility of Liberty
Chapter IV The Advances of Science
Chapter V The Nature of Humans
Chapter VI The Lexical Ambiguity of “Liberty”

Part III. Liberty as Pandemic
Chapter VII Jefferson on the American Revolution
Chapter VIII The Revolution of 1800
Chapter IX The Spread of Liberty in the Americas
Chapter X The Spread of Liberty across the Globe


M. Andrew Holowchak, Ph.D. is a professor of philosophy and history, and editor of 'The Journal of Thomas Jefferson's Life and Times.' He is author/editor of over 65 books and over 270 published essays on topics such as ethics, ancient philosophy, science, psychoanalysis, and critical thinking. His current research is on Thomas Jefferson—he is acknowledged by many scholars to be the world’s foremost authority on the thinking of Jefferson—and has published 27 books and over 200 essays on Jefferson. Like Jefferson, he has a passion for “putting up and pulling down,” but his putting up and pulling down is not architectural, but done on a landscape or in a garden. He also enjoys lifting weights, bike riding, conferencing, and talking about Thomas Jefferson.

American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson, liberty, equality, progress

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Disease of Liberty

Book Subtitle

Thomas Jefferson, History, & Liberty: A Philosophical Analysis





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


1 B&W

Publication date

March 2024