Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason
David Hirsch, Dan Van Haften
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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.
three of them testify that she struck first the short, then the long, then the short pier for the last time. None of the rest substantially contradict this. I assume that these men have got the truth, because I believe it an established fact. My next proposition is that after she struck the short and long pier and before she got back to the short pier the boat got right with her bow out. So says the Pilot Parker—that he “got her through until her starboard wheel passed the short pier.” This
found in the Constitution, nor the word “property” even, in any connection with language alluding to the things slave, or slavery, and that wherever in that instrument the slave is alluded to, he is called a “person;”—and wherever his master’s legal right in relation to him is alluded to, it is spoken of as “service or labor which may be due,”—as a debt payable in service or labor. Also, it would be open to show, by contemporaneous history, that this mode of alluding to slaves and slavery,
position. It was an overmastering oratory, that delighted and convinced.2 Such clarity is the core not only of effective oratory but of good legal process as well. Legal process is primarily a matter of conflict resolution, not conflict. It is conflict, or the potential for it, that makes legal process necessary; legal process maintains the fragile line between civilization and anarchy. The legal system cannot solve society’s problems, nor can it fully rectify society’s injustices; it can only
adversary (or adversarial) system embodies the fundamental right to be heard, and is a pillar of our constitutional system.10 The adversarial system requires a real case: a real controversy, ripe for decision, between real parties in interest. If the controversy is not real, the parties may not be properly motivated to aggressively present it, and the Court may not properly tailor its ruling to what needs to be decided; this tends to produce poor results. If the case is not ripe, the facts are
about 11 oclock. Mr Lincoln suggested that a box of Sappington’s Pills be sent for. If one of these pills were taken hourly during the afternoon, he would warrant the juror’s recovery. After some further remark, the juror was induced to proceed, being “willing to do his best.”15 Each pill contained quinine, licorice, myrrh, and sassafras oil.16 Once a jury is empaneled, each side makes an opening statement. Few transcripts exist from trials involving Abraham Lincoln, so we cannot read a