Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason
David Hirsch, Dan Van Haften
For more than 150 years, historians have speculated about what made Abraham Lincoln great. How did Lincoln create his iron logic, his compelling reason, his convincing oratory, and his memorable writing? Some point to Lincoln's study of grammar, literature, and poetry. Others believe it was the deep national crisis that elevated Lincoln's oratory. Most agree though that he honed his persuasive technique in his work as an Illinois attorney.
Authors Hirsch and Van Haften persuasively argue, for the first time, that it was Lincoln's in-depth study of geometry that gave our sixteenth president his verbal structure. Although Lincoln's fascination with geometry is well documented, most historians have concluded that his study of the subject was little more than mental calisthenics. In fact, conclude the authors, Lincoln embedded the ancient structure of geometric proof into the Gettysburg Address, the Cooper Union speech, the First and Second Inaugurals, his legal practice, and much of his substantive post-1853 communication.
Modern science can be traced back to Greek geometric method, but rhetoric, which morphed into speech and then into communications, has barely advanced since Aristotle. Lincoln's structure emancipates speech from Aristotle and unleashes limitless possibilities. Indeed, his use of geometric method in rhetoric and writing has long been a secret hiding in plain sight. Virtually any literate person can become an Abraham Lincoln by structuring speech with iron logic, as aptly demonstrated by this remarkable new study.
Among other things, the authors artfully demonstrate the real importance of the Cooper Union speech (which helped make Lincoln president), offer a startling revelation about the Declaration of Independence that connects Lincoln to Thomas Jefferson more closely than anyone previously realized, and show how the structure of the legal system played an even more important role in Lincoln's greatness than heretofore realized.
With the publication of Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason, Lincoln immediately takes on a new importance that will open an entirely new avenue of scholarly study.
About the Authors: David Hirsch is an attorney in Des Moines, Iowa. He has a BS from Michigan State University and a JD, with distinction, from the University of Iowa College of Law. He clerked for an Iowa Supreme Court Justice from 1973-1974. Hirsch co-authored the technology column for the American Bar Association Journal for over a decade. The idea for this book came from a column he co-authored for the ABA Journal in 2007.
Dan Van Haften lives in Batavia, Illinois. He has BS, with high honor, and MS degrees in mathematics from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. He began his career with ATandT Bell Laboratories in 1970, and retired from Alcatel-Lucent in 2007. His work involved software development and system testing on telecommunication systems.
And willful perjury, if, in their understanding, any proper division between local and federal authority, or anything in the Constitution they had made themselves, and sworn to support, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. Thus the twenty-one acted; and, as actions speak louder than words, so actions, under such responsibility, speak still louder. Two of the twenty-three voted against Congressional prohibition of slavery in the federal territories,.
Federal territory. The remaining sixteen of the “thirty-nine,” so far as I have discovered, have left no record of their understanding upon the direct question of federal control of slavery in the federal territories. But there is much reason to believe that their understanding upon that question would not have appeared different from that of their twenty-three compeers, had it been manifested at all. For the purpose of adhering rigidly to the text, I have purposely omitted whatever.
When the Message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New-Orleans, Gen. Banks wrote me that he was confident the people, with his military co-operation, would reconstruct, substantially on that plan. I wrote him, and some of them to try it; they tried it, and the result is known. Such only has been my agency in getting up the Louisiana government. As to sustaining it, my promise is out, as before stated. But, as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad.
Herndon’s Informants, 109-110. See also “WHH interview with Dennis Hanks,” 104. 24. Wilson and Davis, “S. T. Johnson (WHH interview),” Herndon’s Informants, 115. 25. Wilson and Davis, “Jason Duncan to WHH,” Herndon’s Informants, 540. Lincoln’s first law book will be discussed in more detail later in the chapter, as will his “practice” before Justice Green. 26. Wilson and Davis, “Joshua F. Speed (statement for WHH),” Herndon’s Informants, 477-478. 27. Wilson and Davis, “S. T. Johnson (WHH.
Built structured, sequential, logical argument. Table 15.2 contains guidelines for the elements of a proposition. Table 15.3 describes two methods for demarcating Lincoln writings. Key to the Euclidean approach in general is the organization within each element and the organization across the six elements. This applies to Lincoln’s speeches. Key to the content of Euclid’s Elements specifically—a collection of 465 propositions in 13 books19—is its logical approach, building within each.