What political theory does the concept of "self-evident" truths fall under?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The idea that certain ideas were "self-evident" or that certain truth was so plain anyone could see it, came from the Enlightenment thinkers. Thomas Jefferson borrowed these Enlightenment ideals from the philosophers Jean Jacques Rousseau, Charles De Montesquieu, John Locke, and Voltaire and many other minds of the day who agreed in the ideas that God has created certain truths that were clear and needed no proof. He incorporated those ideals into the Declaration of Independence. In addition to self-evident truths, Enlightenment thinkers also believed that government had a contract with the people in order to govern wisely. When the government broke that contract, the people had a right to form a new government. The new government would ensure the "self-evident" truths of life, liberty, and property ( as Jefferson wrote in a first draft of the Declaration of Independence) plus the idea that every man had a right to pursue happiness. In order to do that, he must be guaranteed certain personal freedoms. These ideas were in conflict with those who believed in the divine right of kings. They believed man needed to strictly obey a king, not matter how badly her ruled, because God had given him that right. Jefferson, and others, believed that God had given the rights to the people and the people were the ones that should chose their own governments, ones that preserved their God-given rights and that they could obey in good conscience.

dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The concept of 'self-evident' is based upon the political philosophers of the Enlightenment. English political philosopher John Locke recognized the landmarks of The Magna Carta(1215) The Petition of Right(1628) and The Glorious Revolution(1688-1689) as a precursor to his Two Treatises on Government (1690).  The phrase in The Declaration of Independence "We hold these truths to be self-evident" was a revision made by Benjamin Franklin. The original statement by Thomas Jefferson was;"We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable". Although both statements reflect enlightenment philosophy, Franklin suggested that 'sacred and undeniable' might be misunderstood by some of the Continential Congress as  high and mighty.Franklin understood the power of simple language, human nature and politics.  The political concept of 'self evident' has an enlightenment tone combined with the practical no nonsense mind of Ben Franklin, in other words common sense.