On the first chapter selection:
Of The Principal Source Of Belief Among Democratic Nations
1. How does Tocqueville define dogmatic belief?
2. To what extent does Tocqueville believe that dogmatic belief
is of benefit to humanity? Why does he think that there could not
be a society without dogmatic belief?
3. In what ways is dogmatic belief according to Tocqueville consistent
or inconsistent with freedom?
4. What in Tocqueville's analysis is the source of dogmatic belief
in ages of equality?
5. According to Tocqueville, do ages of equality give birth to
pride or humility? Of both?
6. What kind of despotism does Tocqueville think most likely in
ages of equality?
On the second chapter selection:
Why So Many Ambitious Individuals
and So Little Lofty Ambition
are to be Found in the United States
1.In what ways according to Tocqueville does ambition flourish
in democracy? Why does ambition take the form that it does?
2. In what ways in Tocqueville's analysis did ambition manifest
itself in France as that country became more democratic? Why did
ambition take a different form in France from that in the United
3. How does equality moderate ambition?
4. Why was Tocqueville less concerned with the dangers to democracy
posed by ambitious individuals than that ambition would become an
endangered species of human striving?
5. How would Tocqueville respond to Jefferson's argument that the
natural aristoi arise in ages of equality?
6. What is Tocqueville's estimation of pride and humility?
1. How might we encourage lofty ambition today, given the problems
that Tocqueville sees for ambition in ages of equality?
2. Do you think that Tocqueville was more concerned than Jefferson
with the dangers that equality posed to thinking or to ambition?
How are his two concerns related?
3. Would Tocqueville have more respect for the class which Jefferson
calls the "pseudo-aristoi"? Discuss.
4. Compare and contrast Jefferson's and Tocqueville's view of the
benefits of equality to humanity. How would Tocqueville respond
to Jefferson's defense of a democratic social condition? Do Jefferson
and Tocqueville defend or criticize democracy? Do they do so on
5. Does Jefferson or Tocqueville have the greater faith in the
potentials of human nature? Consider Tocqueville's discussion of
"lofty ambition" as well as Jefferson's view of the natural
6. Do Lincoln and Tocqueville give similar analyses of ambition
and of its operation during times of revolution and during times
of peace? Are there nevertheless differences in their accounts?
7. Compare and contrast Tocqueville's and Lincoln's views of the
different forms ambition may take and the benefits and problems