Wednesday, July 4, 2012
And the pursuit of happiness...
Mr. Rogers has demonstrated that neither happiness nor pursuit meant then what we oft take them to mean today -- the unfettered pursuit of self-interest and the guarantee of law to indulge those self-interests. Instead he argues that happiness had a very different meaning in 1776 -- one imbued with goodness, piety, responsibility, and faith. In addition the word pursuit does not mean the right to do as one pleases but the sense of vocation or calling for the well-being not exclusively of self but of all -- a vocation to righteousness if we were using religious terminology.
I find it so very interesting that we attach such meanings to words that strip them of the cultural and linguistic context. Such is not merely the domain of those who practice rather loose Biblical interpretation but also those who attempt to define what the seminal documents of American liberty and values mean. Clearly, we need to listen to folks like James Rogers much more. I hope the esteemed jurists of America are also reading and listening to his words.
You can read them for yourself here....
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Pretty neat perspective. Thanks.
The issue of "looking at words and defining them according to current usage rather than in the context of when they were written" also applies to other phrases in the Declaration of Independence, particularly "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" and "Divine Providence."
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