Thomas Paine

John Koritansky, Hiram College
January 31, 2004

The focus of this seminar will be the thought of Thomas Paine, in particular his distinctive understanding of human freedom which he believed was the true meaning of American independence and the new American regime. We will begin with his pamphlet Common Sense and examine how in it Paine guides American colonials to take the decisive step from their complaints about Parliament’s taxes to a view of England and monarchy as an evil from which Americans ought to separate themselves. We will then examine some of Paine’s later writings in an attempt to understand his complete thought concerning the nature of political society and the best regime. A key issue for us in this connection will be Paine’s views regarding religion. What was the relationship between Paine’s critique of Christianity on the one hand and his endorsement of religious freedom on the other?

John C. Koritansky is Professor of Political Science at Hiram College, where he teaches American politics, public law, public administration, and political philosophy. Dr. Koritansky is the author of Alexis de Tocqueville and the New Science of Politics (Carolina Academic Press, 1986), and has edited and contributed to Public Administration in the United States (Focus Press, 1999). He has also authored numerous articles in political philosophy and public law. Dr. Koritansky received his A.B. from Cornell University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Session One

Focus: What is Paine’s critique of the English system of government, with its vaunted scheme of checks and balances? What in his view is the foundation and nature of civil society and of government and what corrupts them? How might civil society be well formed?


Session Two

Focus: What is Paine’s critique of the Bible, in his Age of Reason? Do Paine’s hopes for a rational and just society depend on his successfully undermining the authority of the Bible? If so, how is this realted to his concern for religious freedom?


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