Tag Archives: Thomas Paine

Common Sense democracy history Jean-Jacques Rousseau journalism philosophy public discourse

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and the philosophy of revolution

This paper was originally written for a journalism history course At OWU.

The first thing that struck me when reading from Common Sense was the similarity of Thomas Paine’s work to another author, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  I don’t believe the similarity in style is simply due to the fact that these men wrote in nearly the same era.  It certainly has little to do with subject matter; Paine was goading a revolution, Rousseau was opining on philosophy.  But there is a similarity in the way they construct and maintain arguments, probably because their arguments were prompted by similar purposes.  Where Rousseau was challenging views long held by establishment philosophers, Paine was challenging established political beliefs.  Where Rousseau leaves the levels of abstraction we often find in philosophy and brings in real-life examples and histories, Paine elevates his arguments above just the coarseness of the British troops and questions the very philosophies that keep Britain in power in America.

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