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Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought
     

Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought

by Jerry Weinberger
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Weekly Standard
Weinberger's book offers a revolutionary reevaluation of Franklin's thought.
Christopher Hitchens

An elegant and fascinating companion to, and analysis of, the work of our cleverest Founding Father.
Atlantic Monthly

Library Journal
This book is not another conventional biography of America's most famous self-made man. Instead, Weinberger (political science, Michigan State Univ.) examines the evolution of Franklin's intellectual life with a particular focus on the development of his moral, political, and religious thought. Weinberger uses Franklin's Autobiography as a window into the man's thinking. He argues that a careful reading of it reveals more about Franklin and his personal philosophy than any of his other writings do. Its writing, late in life, offered Franklin the opportunity to tell readers what he had concluded was most important. Weinberger argues that despite the seeming contradictions in Franklin's life and writings, he was ultimately true to himself and developed a unified, remarkable, and relevant philosophy of life. Weinberger also offers an in-depth look at Franklin's masterly use of humor, showing that it remains an important and often overlooked medium for his deepest thoughts. Well researched and well written, this intellectual biography is for both the scholar and the lay reader. Recommended for libraries with a special interest in Franklin and the development of American philosophy; libraries looking for a more traditional biography may want to consider Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.-Robert Flatley, Kutztown Univ. Lib., PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700615841
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
02/05/2008
Series:
American Political Thought Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are Saying About This

Andrew Sullivan

Ravishingly subversive.

Harvey Mansfield

Franklin's many masks are examined and lifted to disclose the one real man—a thinker—behind them. Weinberger gives us the radical truth about Franklin in a book that is a delight to read. (Harvey Mansfield, author of America's Constitutional Soul)

Christopher Hitchens
An elegant and fascinating companion to, and analysis of, the work of our cleverest Founding Father.
Ralph Lerner

With the focus of a bloodhound and the tenacity of a bulldog Weinberger follows Ben's spoofs and sophisms into whatever cul-de-sac they lead. His Franklin is a coherent philosopher-skeptic who teases us into thinking for ourselves. . . . A bracing, hilarious, and enlightening experience. (Ralph Lerner, author of The Thinking Revolutionary: Principle and Practice in the New Republic)

Ralph Ketcham

A lively, clever and well-informed account that's sure to raise controversy. (Ralph Ketcham, author of The Political Thought of Ben Franklin)

Meet the Author

Jerry Weinberger is professor of political science at Michigan State University and an adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. He is also the author of Science, Faith, and Politics: Francis Bacon and the Utopian Roots of the Modern Age and Francis Bacon: The History of the Reign of King Henry the Seventh—A New Edition with Introduction, Annotation, and Interpretive Essay.

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