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Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought (American Political Thought) ePub download

by Jerry Weinberger

  • Author: Jerry Weinberger
  • ISBN: 0700615849
  • ISBN13: 978-0700615841
  • ePub: 1866 kb | FB2: 1650 kb
  • Language: English
  • Category: Leaders & Notable People
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (September 7, 2005)
  • Pages: 352
  • Rating: 4.8/5
  • Votes: 844
  • Format: mbr mobi lrf txt
Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought (American Political Thought) ePub download

Weinberger’s book offers a revolutionary reevaluation of Franklin's thought, one that unveils Franklin as a far more subtle, complex, and subversive thinker than most have cared to notice.

Weinberger’s book offers a revolutionary reevaluation of Franklin's thought, one that unveils Franklin as a far more subtle, complex, and subversive thinker than most have cared to notice. This useful volume has the virtue of being an education in itself, and will pay rich dividends for those willing to learn from this charming American Socrates. Intricate, probing, and insightful. Weinberger has an extraordinary talent for illuminating the meaning of texts. -Perspectives on Politics.

Benjamin Franklin Unmasked book. Taking the Autobiography as the key to Franklin's thought, Weinberger argues that previous assessments have not yet probed to the bottom of Ben's famous irony and elusiveness. While others take the self-portrait as an elder statesman's relaxed and playful retrospection, Weinberger unveils it as the window to Franklin's deepest reflections on God, virtue, justice, equality, natural rights, love, the good life, the modern technological project, and the place and limits of reason in politics and human experience.

Weinberger's thesis is controversial: From age 15, when Franklin read his father's books on theology until his death at 84, he never wavered in his conviction that God did not exist, religion was superstition, and moral principles were merely longings of the human psyche, unfulfilled in this life or the next. But if he took such a skeptical view of righteousness, why did he pen his Autobiography and promote such homespun virtues as temperance, frugality, justice, chastity, and humility? Do you want to read the rest of this article? Request full-text.

book by Jerry Weinberger. Moral paragon, public servant, founding father; scoundrel, opportunist, womanizing phony: There are many Benjamin Franklins. Now, as we celebrate the tercentenary of Franklin's birth, Jerry Weinberger reveals the Franklin behind the many masks and shows that the real Franklin was far more remarkable than anyone has yet discovered.

Following Franklin's rhetorical twists and turns, Weinberger discovers a serious thinker who was profoundly critical of religion, moral virtue, and political ideals and whose grasp of human folly constrained his hopes for enlightenment and political reform. This close and amusing reading of Franklin portrays a scrupulous dialectical philosopher, humane and wise, but more provocative and disturbing than even the most hardboiled interpreters have taken Franklin to be-a freethinking critic of Enlightenment freethinking, who played his moral and theological cards very close to the vest.

Jerry Weinberger is an adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute and professor .

Jerry Weinberger is an adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of political science at Michigan State University. He is the author of several books, including Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought (University Press of Kansas, 2005). Benjamin Franklin and Fake News. This is an accurate and not-at-all fanciful depiction of how Ben Franklin discovered electricity. Fake news has been in the news of late, and one might wish that news about fake news were fake as well

The history of political thought dates back to antiquity while the political history of the world and thus the history of political thinking by man stretches up through the Medieval period and the Renaissance.

The history of political thought dates back to antiquity while the political history of the world and thus the history of political thinking by man stretches up through the Medieval period and the Renaissance.

Jerry Weinberger was interviewed about his book Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought, published by University Press of Kansas. Closed Captioning Record People Graphical Timeline. All Speakers Jerry Weinberger. This transcript was compiled from uncorrected Closed Captioning. People in this video. Jerry Weinberger Chairman Michigan State University- Political Science. Hosting Organization. National Press Club Book FairNational Press Club Book Fair.

Weinberger seizes hold of his professed and repressed attitudes to religion .

Weinberger seizes hold of his professed and repressed attitudes to religion, and employs them as a thread of Ariadne through the labyrinth of Franklin's multifarious writings .

Moral paragon, public servant, founding father; scoundrel, opportunist, womanizing phony: There are many Benjamin Franklins. Now, as we celebrate the tercentenary of Franklin's birth, Jerry Weinberger reveals the Franklin behind the many masks and shows that the real Franklin was far more remarkable than anyone has yet discovered.Taking the Autobiography as the key to Franklin's thought, Weinberger argues that previous assessments have not yet probed to the bottom of Ben's famous irony and elusiveness. While others take the self-portrait as an elder statesman's relaxed and playful retrospection, Weinberger unveils it as the window to Franklin's deepest reflections on God, virtue, justice, equality, natural rights, love, the good life, the modern technological project, and the place and limits of reason in politics and human experience. Along the way, Weinberger explores Franklin's ribald humor, usually ignored or toned down by historians and critics, and shows it to be charming-and philosophic.Following Franklin's rhetorical twists and turns, Weinberger discovers a serious thinker who was profoundly critical of religion, moral virtue, and political ideals and whose grasp of human folly constrained his hopes for enlightenment and political reform. This close and amusing reading of Franklin portrays a scrupulous dialectical philosopher, humane and wise, but more provocative and disturbing than even the most hardboiled interpreters have taken Franklin to be—a freethinking critic of Enlightenment freethinking, who played his moral and theological cards very close to the vest.Written for general readers who want to delve more deeply into the mind of a great man and great American, Benjamin Franklin Unmasked shows us a massively powerful intellect lurking behind the leather-apron countenance. This lively, witty, and revelatory book is indispensable for those who want to meet the real Franklin.
Dakora
I am interested in comparing the 5 best biographies of Benjamin Franklin that have been written (thus far) in the new millennia, emphasizing Weinberger's account.

THE BEST 5 BIOGRAPHIES ARE (in order of publication date)
Edmund S. Morgan's Benjamin Franklin (Yale Nota Bene S.)
H. W. Brands's The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
Gordon S. Wood's The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin
Jerry Weinberger's Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought (American Political Thought)

The first 4 of these biographies are presented as in the typical historically (and chronologically) biographical approach. There are 24 pictures in Morgan's book, no pictures in Brands's book, 32 pictures in Isaacson's book, 25 pictures in Wood's book, and no pictures in Weinberger's book.
I am not going to write about how great Franklin was or what he did (he was great and he did so much). I want to write primarily about how each of these authors portrays Franklin's character differently by highlighting different aspects of his life.

In London (1725) Franklin wrote "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain," which seemed to show that Franklin was a young radical Deist. In the pamphlet, he denied free will, denied the existence of vice and virtue and merit, and rejected particular providence. Later, when the pamphlet was reprinted in Boston, Franklin became a social outcast of sorts and he wrote that he was "inclined to leave Boston" because people were calling him "an infidel or atheist." When Franklin fled Boston he was 17 years old. He later wrote about that pamphlet that Ï began to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful."
Later, after becoming rich from his printing presses, writings, and scientific discoveries, Franklin became a statesman, diplomat, Founding Father, and icon.
At the end of his life he wrote his "Autobiography," where Franklin said that he "never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity, that he made the world, and governed it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service to God was the doing of good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished and virtue rewarded either here or hereafter; these I esteemed the essentials of every religion".

If you've read Leo Strauss's "Persecution and the Art of Writing" then you'll be familiar with Weinberger's hermeneutic. Weinberger sees a contradiction: Franklin seriously doubted as a young man what he says to have never doubted as an old man (compare the 1725 pamphlet to the aforementioned quote from the "Autobiography"). Weinberger notes, "...to my knowledge, this flat contradiction has remained unnoticed by everyone who has written..." on Franklin (pg. 49). According to Weinberger, Franklin's treatment in Boston and his belief that George Whitfield should not have written anything that would leave him open to attack, created a Franklin who wrote subtly for those who take the time to peal back the shades of meaning in his own texts. Indicators are contradictions and contradictions are dissolvable when we find something deeper which ties things together.
Franklin is a "radical skeptic" according to Weinberger. The philosophical Franklin is hidden behind his humor (often debauched). Weinberger's Franklin is a true anomaly among the other historians. He attacks Isaacson's pragmatist-Franklin as "always look[ing] on the bright side of things because they are not really pragmatists" (pg. 289; my brackets). He attacks Wood in a 2 and ½ page footnote, where Wood's presentation of an "angry Franklin" is (somehow) incompatible with Franklin's proposed skepticism (pg. 314-317). Weinberger says that as a philosopher Franklin could not have sustained anger as a part of his political motivations because the skeptical Franklin would be "able to reflect philosophically on the perfect irrationality of anger as the wellspring of moral and political commitments" (pg. 223, see also pg. 288). In fact, Brands might agree, he said that Franklin was a skeptic by temperament (Brands, pg. 94). However, Weinberger sees Franklin's skepticism as "even more radical and more thoughtfully grounded..." (pg. xiii). Because Franklin is supposedly a skeptic he could not agree with Spinoza and Hobbes who appear as dogmatic as the religious leaders (begin with materialist assumptions and end with their conclusions and visa versa for spiritualists...see pg. 75-59 and 277). However, Franklin does follow Hobbes insofar as Hobbes was the protégé of Francis Bacon. Weinberger calls Franklin's politics "political Baconianism: the view that politics is an artful game aimed at getting things to work right and not a matter of setting things `right' in the sense of justice" (pg. 234-235). Hobbes "outlined the most powerful version of political Baconianism" (pg. 235). Yet Franklin could not follow Hobbes all the way because Hobbes became a materialist-dogmatist and Franklin remained a skeptic. Franklin, in a sense, tried to take on Socratic Ignorance, Franklin was "first the careful, dialectical philosopher..." (pg. 290). The historians, on the other hand, who follow loosely Morgan's notion that "charity" was the "guiding principle of Franklin's life" (Morgan, pg. 24) continue along with Wood who says Franklin "came to realize that science and philosophy could never take the place of service in government" (Wood, pg. 66).

One of Weinberger's best summaries of Franklin's quasi-political machinations may be that "for all his real efforts to foster his minimalist `creed' that would not `shock the professors of any religion,' he always included divine punishment in that creed and was quite willing both to shock believers and to side with enthusiasts, whichever prudence required. Franklin's concrete religious politics could be well described as inclined towards `managed enthusiasm'" (pg. 279).
Vizuru
I have read a great many books on the founders-including several on Franklin-and this stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. Weinberger combines historical knowledge with political insight and philosophic depth in a way that I've never seen. The resulting interpetation was a revelation, changing not only how I view Franklin, but how I view the world. If you've never encountered a book of this sort, you owe it to yourself to read it. It's a rare treat to find one first-rate mind exploring and exhibiting the labyrinthian delights to be found in another. Bonus: the book is also extremely funny, perhaps the funniest political biography ever written.
CONVERSE
In "Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral Religious, and Political Thought", Dr. Jerry Weinberger examines Franklin's literary work in an effort to discover the real Franklin underneath the facade. Dr. Weinberger clearly knows his subject well, and he dissects Franklin's words and meanings, looking for clues anywhere and everywhere. Dr. Weinberger starts with Franklin's autobiography, and returns to it often as the foundation against which all Franklin's works are measured.

Unfortunately, this book fails to work in many ways. Dr. Weinberger's writing style sucks the life out of the topic, which is not easy to do with Benjamin Franklin. His analysis reads too much into Franklin's words. The writing does improve after the first couple of chapters, however it rarely is an enjoyable book to read and I often had to put it down for a while.

Many of Dr. Weinberger's arguments are unconvincing, and I have a couple examples. Let me first say that I am by no means an expert on Franklin's writing, and Dr. Weinberger may be correct in all that he has written. However, the arguments he puts forward are not convincing. I have a fairly strong history background, and I have read biographies of Franklin and several of his contemporaries.

My first example is the contradiction which Dr. Weinberger discusses in the second chapter. He attempts to show that Franklin lies when he says he "never doubted" certain principles of religion. Dr. Weinberger claims that this contradiction "has remained unnoticed by everyone who has written on Franklin's religion and especially on the story of Franklin's fall and redemption." However, what Franklin wrote is not necessarily a contradiction. To begin with, Franklin wrote his statement about never doubting at least 12 years after his discussion of his "fall and redemption". While it is true that Franklin revised and edited both parts of his "Autobiography" later, that doesn't mean that he would change his earlier writing in a substantial way.

Franklin never said he was an atheist or that he doubted the existence of God in any of his writings, and his discussion of his Deism does not necessarily make him a liar when he discusses the religious principals that he "never doubted". I do not find it difficult to believe that he may have looked back at his life and realized that deep down he never really doubted these principals.

The second example is with regards to Franklin being a Mason. Dr. Weinberger writes that an incident in June of 1937 "...casts some doubt on the seriousness of his dedication to Masonic principles." He uses as evidence Franklin's writing where he makes fun of some of the words and ceremonies. It is clear that Dr. Weinberger doesn't believe that Franklin was a serious member in "the society dedicated to universal enlightenment, rational religion, and benevolence" as a result of "...his mockery of the Masons". However, in the very next section he talks of how "Franklin was not reluctant to mock himself." It is not difficult to believe that a man who is willing to mock himself would have the same willingness to mock organizations, even those to which he belongs.

There are some sections of the book which are well done and very interesting. I thought the discussion on Franklin's beliefs with regard to race and slavery and how they changed over time was particularly good. It is unfortunate that there was not more of this type of discussion in the book.

Updated: I usually don't comment on other reviews, however, since J. Novak decided to comment on mine, I feel it is appropriate to respond. Mr. Novak writes that "Franklin at one point in his Autobiography mentions that he never stopped believing in god; something that completely contradicts an earlier claim by Franklin that he did indeed stop believing..." This statement is completely inaccurate. Dr. Weinberger describes the contradiction as "...hard to see and thus easy to overlook." If Franklin had written such a direct contradiction as Mr. Novak indicated, it would not be described by Dr. Weinberger in this way, nor would it have gone unnoticed for over 200 years.

A very short summary of the contradiction starts with Franklin's "Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity" where Franklin wrote that "nothing could possibly be wrong in the world, and that vice and virtue were empty distinctions, no such things existing." In his autobiography Franklin writes that he never doubted certain principles, including "... that all crime will be punished and virtue rewarded either here or hereafter..." There is a contradiction of sorts between these two ideas. However, these two pieces were written many years apart, and we don't know if Franklin really believed what he originally wrote. He would hardly be the first or the last person to explore ideas which he didn't necessarily believe. Furthermore, many people use definitive words such as "never" and "always" when they are not accurate, and Franklin may have meant he never doubted outside of the events he had already discussed. To say that there is a contradiction in these words is technically true; to say that Franklin is overtly lying is a stretch.

I do agree with Mr. Novak's statement that Franklin's humor is hilarious, but this is a book of analysis of Franklin's writing, and it is that analysis which I find to be questionable and difficult to read.
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