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2 Am. Pol. Thought 1 (2013)

handle is hein.journals/ampolth2 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Reason and Experience

in Alexander Hamilton's

Science of Politics


Alexander Hamilton  is often described as an enterprising modernist who promoted
forward-looking reforms that broke with established institutions and ideas. However,
the scale and apparent novelty of his reforms have tended to obscure the extent to
which those innovations were rooted in a belief that knowledge and practice must
be guided by experience. This article argues that even Hamilton's most far-reaching
reforms were grounded in a Humean  understanding of the limits of rationality in ex-
plaining and controlling the world. Hamilton's agreement with David Hume on the
epistemic authority of experience helps explain his positions on constitutional design,
executive power, democratic politics, public opinion, and other important political is-
sues. Moreover, the epistemological underpinnings of Hamilton's political thought are
significant because they suggest that a science of politics grounded in experience can
avoid some of the dangers associated with more rationalistic approaches yet still be
quite open to significant innovation in politics.

In an era known  for ushering in a new order of the ages, Alexander Hamilton
stands out  among  his contemporaries   as a bold and intrepid reformer. He  is
perhaps  best remembered   as an enterprising modernist who  promoted   sweep-
ing financial, industrial, and constitutional innovations that helped transform
America   from a politically dependent  and economically   backward   agrarian
society into a political and industrial powerhouse. From   demands  to abolish
the long-standing  practice of slavery to calls for investments  in new forms
of manufacturing,   Hamilton's   positions seem  to reflect a forward-looking

Clement Fatovic is associate professor and director of graduate studies in political science in the Department
of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th Street, SIPA 424,
Miami, FL 33199 (fatovic@fiu.edu).
   I would like to thank Craig Ewasiuk, my fellow participants on a panel on American political
thought at the 2010 annual meeting of the Western Political Science Association, and the anonymous
reviewers who provided very helpful suggestions on earlier versions of this article.

American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture, vol. 2 (Spring 2013).
2161-1580/2013/0201-0002$10.00. © 2013 by The Jack Miller Center. All rights reserved.

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