By Ralph Lerner
One certain truth of humanity is that all of us cherish our reviews and may frequently strongly withstand efforts through others to alter them. Philosophers and politicians have lengthy understood this, and at any time when they've got sought to get us to imagine another way they've got frequently resorted to sorts of camouflage that slip their unsettling recommendations into our psyche with out elevating alarm. during this attention-grabbing exam of various writers and thinkers, Ralph Lerner bargains a brand new approach to studying that detects this camouflage and gives a fashion towards deeper understandings of a few of history’s such a lot important—and so much concealed—messages. Lerner analyzes an wonderful variety of writers, together with Francis Bacon, Benjamin Franklin, Edward Gibbon, Judah Halevi, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Moses Maimonides, and Alexis de Tocqueville. He exhibits that via examining their phrases slowly and naïvely, with wide-open eyes and specified recognition for moments of writing that turn into self-conscious, impassioned, or idiosyncratic, we will be able to start to see a trend that illuminates a thinker’s motive, new messages purposively performed via oblique capacity. via those experimental readings, Lerner exhibits, we will be able to see a deep commonality throughout writers from disparate occasions and events, one who unearths them artfully difficult others to reject passivity and fatalism and begin considering afresh.
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Extra resources for Naïve Readings: Reveilles Political and Philosophic
Needless to say, coming from Ben’s hand that account is not without its ironies and mixed signals. Viewed in isolation, the substance of the sermon is a potpourri of folk sayings, drawn from the pages of Poor Richard’s Almanacks of the previous twenty-five years. Its boring repetitiveness calls to mind the reasons Ben offered for absenting himself from church as soon as he could. In its reported effects the sermon is a total failure. And yet this comical fiasco is treated by Richard Saunders, the idiosyncratic purported author and editor of the almanac, as a flattering endorsement of his wit and wisdom.
14 All this is to suggest that in examining this paean to industry, prudence, and frugality, we proceed with caution. There is more to discover about this apostle’s gospel if only we try. Father Abraham is ready enough to accede to the crowd’s call for advice, but what he delivers is hardly a model of gentle, ingratiating speech. The brunt of his message is that his audience’s grousing is misdirected. Their discontents and distress are less of the government’s making than of their own. “We are taxed twice as much by our Idleness, three times as much by our Pride, and four times as much by our Folly, and from these Taxes the Commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an Abatement” (W 1295, P 7:341).
Ben confesses that as a young adolescent “I still thought [church attendance] a Duty; tho’ I could not, as it seemed to me, afford the Time to practise it” (A 63, W 1320). Indeed, it is far from certain that Ben would have made it to the church door even had he lucked on a preacher after his liking—one focused more on urging his congregants to be good citizens rather than simply orthodox members of the sect. Even after sacrificing “five Sundays successively” to listening to a Presbyterian who failed his test, the most Ben allows is: “Had he been, in my Opinion, a good Preacher perhaps I might have continued, notwithstanding the occasion I had for the Sunday’s Leisure in my Course of Study” (A 147, W 1383).
Naïve Readings: Reveilles Political and Philosophic by Ralph Lerner