9780812693867

Recovering Benjamin Franklin An Exploration of a Life of Science and Service

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780812693867

  • ISBN10:

    0812693868

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 1999-01-22
  • Publisher: Open Court
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Summary

Is Benjamin Franklin, the familiar cultural icon whose face appears on coins, currency, and postage stamps, in addition to being an affable inventor, printer, and humorist also an important American philosopher? In Recovering Benjamin Franklin, James Campbell attempts to "recover" Benjamin Franklin's role as philosopher. In the broad eighteenth-century understanding of the term "philosopher", most people would say that Franklin clearly qualifies as one. But since the beginning of the twentieth century, the meaning of the term has narrowed. What should be said about Franklin as philosopher in the current sense of the word? Part of the problem is that Franklin's thought is difficult to classify. Franklin is not a composer of lengthy, systematic treatises. Instead, we know him as the author of letters and essays, primarily short and often fragmentary, that were intended for diverse audiences. Was Franklin a thinker whose interests were nearly universal, or was he a dabbler who flew from topic to topic? Was he a minor intellectual who was incapable of sustained theoretical work, or was he a thinker who recognized that thought must function in the world? In answering these questions, Campbell provides a survey of the events in Franklin's rich life and explores his extraordinary place in American history, along the way challenging a series of popular misconceptions that are based upon narrow interpretations of Franklin's work. To foster a more adequate understanding, the author lays out in detail Franklin's ideas in four areas: science, religion, morality, and politics.

Table of Contents

Preface viii
Chapter 1: Introduction
1(36)
1.1. Approaching Benjamin Franklin
1(9)
1.2. Franklin's Life
10(12)
1.3. Interpretations of Franklin
22(15)
Chapter 2: Franklin's Life in Science
37(54)
2.1. Natural Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century
37(15)
2.2. Electricity and Lightning
52(15)
2.3. The Range of Franklin's Natural Philosophy
67(9)
2.4. Science as Cooperative Method Pursuing the Common Good
76(15)
Chapter 3: Franklin's Religious Thought
91(44)
3.1. Puritan Origins
91(9)
3.2. Early Radicalism and Its Abandonment
100(10)
3.3. Franklin's Life in Deism
110(16)
3.4. Religion as a Social Good
126(9)
Chapter 4: Franklin's Moral Thought
135(40)
4.1. Simple Moral Formulations
136(6)
4.2. Customs and Evaluation
142(7)
4.3. The Importance of Virtue
149(9)
4.4. Virtues like Industry and Frugality
158(8)
4.5. A Puritan Morality?
166(9)
Chapter 5: Franklin's Vision of the Social Good
175(78)
5.1. Britain and America
176(21)
5.2. Structures of Unification
197(9)
5.3. Processes of Cooperation
206(13)
5.4. A Simple Life of Democratic Equality
219(17)
5.5. Equality, Race, and Slavery
236(17)
Chapter 6: Franklin and the Pragmatic Spirit
253(20)
6.1. Franklin's Pragmatism
253(9)
6.2. Pragmatism and the American Spirit
262(11)
Works Cited 273(20)
Index 293

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