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Naïve Readings : Reveilles Political and Philosophic (Hardcover) (Ralph Lerner)
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Naive Readings is a collection of nine of Ralph Lerner’s essays on an astonishing range of notoriously difficult and complex authors and texts including Benjamin Franklin’s secular and his liturgical writings, Jefferson’s Summary View,” and Abraham Lincoln’s various writings on statesmanship before he took office; Bacon’s Essayes, Gibbon’s writings on Jews, and Tocqueville on Edmund Burke; and finally Judah Halevi’s Kuzari, and Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed. Lerner presents his essays as experiments that challenge our current habits of reading which, especially in the case of such difficult texts, usually involve a hasty dismissal of whatever is deemed irrelevant and superficial. His aim is to show that such dismissal is almost always an error fatal to gaining a better insight into an author’s intent. The antidote, he argues, is to read slowly and naively, paying particular attention to passages where the prose becomes self-conscious, impassioned, and idiosyncratic. It is in these passages, Lerner claims, that we can see a pattern which once it has been discerned appears to have been laying out in plain sight all along. Lerner is especially concerned to untangle surface questions such as the unity of opening and closing, the treatment of significant but not obviously thematic subjects, the surprising choice of a foil for one’s argument, and a work’s structure and organization. A central issue that animates each of the essays is the question of the author’s intended effect on his audiences. Ultimately the plain but barely stated message of all these heterogeneous texts is that notwithstanding our limited understanding and finite powers, we are not absolved, individually or collectively, from confronting and mitigating as best we can the difficulties and dangers that life on earth poses to our flourishing.
Number of Pages: 225
Genre: Political Science, Philosophy, Religion + Beliefs
Sub-Genre: Judaism / General, Political, History + Theory
Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
Author: Ralph Lerner
Street Date: April 14, 2016
Item Number (DPCI): 248-15-8647
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