Recovering Benjamin Franklin

Recovering Benjamin Franklin

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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 qrecoverq Benjamin Franklin's role as philosopher. In the broad eighteenth-century understanding of the term qphilosopherq, 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. Finally, Campbell explores Franklin's place in the history of American philosophy, ultimately concluding that Franklinshould be considered an early figure in the Pragmatist movement whose contribution was similar in importance to later figures such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, and John Dewey.... religiosity or test faith; rather, it demonstrates concern for our well-being.52 As Franklin writes of moral codes in general, aquot;vicious Actions are not hurtful because they are forbidden, ... and to doubt my own Judgment as to what would mend it.

Title:Recovering Benjamin Franklin
Author:James Campbell
Publisher:Open Court Publishing - 1999


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