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TocquevilleThe Aristocratic Sources of Liberty$
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Lucien Jaume

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691152042

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691152042.001.0001

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The Moralist and the Question of l’Honnête

The Moralist and the Question of l’Honnête

(p.147) 8 The Moralist and the Question of l’Honnête

Lucien Jaume

, Arthur Goldhammer
Princeton University Press

This chapter argues that Tocqueville was a moralist in the same sense that he was a political thinker: he imagines not only an adversary whom he must defeat but also an interlocutor whom he must convince. The paradox is that his methods as a moralist were the opposite of his methods as a sociologist. Tocqueville the moralist wanted schools to teach the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, which gave a surprising tinge to his “liberalism.” Like Rousseau, but also like Robespierre, he believed that a civic religion was necessary and that those who refused to accept it were enemies. By adopting the position of the public moralist, Tocqueville was able to strike a compromise between his negative emotions (horror of mediocrity, chronic depression and anxiety) and his reasons for hope (democracy was accomplishing miracles and would accomplish more in the future).

Keywords:   Alexis de Tocqueville, moralist, political thinker, liberalism, civic religion, Democracy in America

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