Matthew Stewart Lecture – The Heretical Nation
2 Lake Street, San Francisco, CA
Why weren’t America’s founders better at being Christian? Was a Jewish heretic involved in the creation of the American Republic? In this talk, Matthew Stewart discusses the influence of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) on the radical philosophical tradition that guided America’s revolutionaries in the creation of the world’s first modern, liberal, democratic republic. Along the way he will explain why Thomas Jefferson took a pair of scissors to the Bible; why Jefferson was so excited to inform John Adams about the latest advances in neuroscience; why Adams was equally keen to inform Jefferson about the near-certain existence of extraterrestrial life; and how the self-taught Ethan Allen managed to draw lessons from books he never read. It is hoped that this discussion of the role of rational inquiry in the founding of the American republic will provide some inspiration in unreasonable times.
Matthew Stewart is the author most recently of Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. He is also the author of, among other works, The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World. He holds an AB from Princeton University and a DPhil in Philosophy from Oxford University. He is currently an independent scholar and lives in the Boston area.
This lecture is made possible by the Rabbi Joseph Asher Endowment Fund.