Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Qty:1
  • List Price: $39.95
  • Save: $8.69 (22%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 3 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
Lincoln's Tragic Pragmati... has been added to your Cart
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Fast shipping from Amazon! Qualifies for Prime Shipping and FREE standard shipping for orders over $35. Overnight, 2 day and International shipping available! Excellent Customer Service.. May not include supplements such as CD, access code or DVD.
Sell yours for a Gift Card
We'll buy it for $3.50
Learn More
Trade in now
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict Hardcover – January 7, 2013

15 customer reviews

See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$31.26
$19.21 $11.38

Best Books of the Year So Far
Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
$31.26 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 3 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict + Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 50th Anniversary Edition
Price for both: $48.03

Buy the selected items together


Editorial Reviews

Review

John Burt has written a work that every serious student of Lincoln will have to read...Burt refracts Lincoln through the philosophy of Kant, Rawls and contemporary liberal political theory. His is very much a Lincoln for our time. (Steven B. Smith New York Times Book Review 2013-02-17)

I'm making space on my overstuffed shelves for Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism. This is a book I expect to be picking up and thumbing through for years to come. (Jim Cullen History News Network 2013-03-18)

Burt treats the [Lincoln-Douglas] debates as being far more significant than an election contest between two candidates. The debates represent profound statements of political philosophy and speak to the continuing challenges the U.S. faces in resolving divisive moral conflicts. (E. C. Sands Choice 2013-10-01)

John Burt writes with real penetration about the arguments that informed the rise to power of the greatest genius of American democracy. At once a detailed history of the crisis of the 1850s and a searching essay on the moral basis of politics, this book goes far to answer two questions: why did Lincoln believe that compromise was the heart of normal politics, and how did he come to define a moment when normal politics must end? (David Bromwich, author of A Choice of Inheritance)

Thoroughly informed by historical learning and philosophical sophistication, literary critic John Burt provides a detailed analysis of the Lincoln–Douglas debates in their original context, scrupulously fair to both parties. This is the most profound exploration of the enduring significance of Lincoln's rhetoric since Harry Jaffa's classic [Crisis of the House Divided] of 1959. A magnificent achievement. (Daniel Walker Howe, author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848)

Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism is a brilliant, ground-breaking book with fresh insights on almost every page. No one has analyzed the ironies and problems of liberal politics with the rigor, depth, and subtlety Burt displays here. He redeems (or recovers) Stephen Douglas's reputation as a writer, speaker, and political thinker, and, through his deep engagement with Lincoln's writings, Burt also makes the best case available for the significance of Lincoln as a literary figure. And Burt's conclusions about the limits of liberal politics, about democracy itself being the barrier to ending a pervasive evil, have deep resonances for nations today. (John Stauffer, author of The Black Hearts of Men)

About the Author

John Burt is Professor of English at Brandeis University.
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; First Edition edition (January 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674050185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674050181
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.7 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #645,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Abraham Lincoln continues to inspire Americans. Beginning with Harry Jaffa's books, "Crisis of the House Divided" (1959) and "A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War" (2004) various scholars have tried to develop what they see as Lincoln's philosophy from the welter of his political speeches and writings. The most recent book to do so is John Burt's massive, "Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln Douglas, and Moral Conflict." (2013). Burt is Professor of English at Brandeis University. While Jaffa interpreted Lincoln within the natural law tradition that begins with Aristotle, Burt offers a highly modern, liberal Lincoln whose thought resembles features of John Rawls and Kant.

As did Jaffa, Burt concentrates on the Illinois debates between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858 for election to the Senate. He tries to be fair to Douglas and to explain how his position differed from Lincoln's. He argues that Douglas tried to compromise on a somewhat ad hoc basis with the goal of preserving the Union and saving it from bloodshed. For Burt, Douglas is frequently but unjustifiably portrayed as a relativist, moral skeptic, or apologist for slavery, The risk of Douglas' willingness to compromise, for Burt, was a moral relativism. Burt offers insightful comparisons and contrasts between Lincoln and Douglas throughout his study. They shared more in common than sometimes supposed.

Much of the book is an explanation of the phrase "tragic pragmatist" that Burt applies to Lincoln in his title and uses to develop Lincoln's thought. Lincoln's position begins with a moral opposition to slavery. But Lincoln showed a willingness to compromise and to accept American constitutional law as it was.
Read more ›
6 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Cassell on March 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book seems endless and yet it reveals a history of the US prior to the civil war that is not really known to most of us. In some ways (but only some) it is like the present period of US history where the underlying struggle is not clear but is clearly important and, I think, not what it seems. It is well written, but philosophical in tone. Not for the faint of heart.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Justin Krasnoff on May 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"Moby Dick" was still required reading when I was in high school. Some wag had gone through all the copies in the school library and crossed out, in the table of contents, the chapters on the technical details of the whaling industry with the sage advice "Don't read these." I am not in favor of defacing books, but someone should do the same with the majority of paragraphs in John Burt's "Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism."
The book concerns the historical, political, and philosophical background of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates; it does not deal directly with the debates themselves. (Nor does it purport to). In this regard it is similar to Harry Jaffa's "Crisis of the House Divided." The problem arises when the author goes beyond the differences between the political philosophies of Lincoln and Douglas and starts to deal with the philosophy of political philosphy itself. He largely analyzes John Rawls and posits what his political philosophy might bring to bear on the philosophical differences between Lincoln and Douglas. The abstruse nature of this focus would be complicated and boring enough, but then Burt compounds that mistake by adopting an outrageously pretentious and pedantic style. Here is an example from pp. 72-73 which is, alas, far from unique but manages to cram so much of what is obnoxious about Burt's style into just a single sentence: "The South was not alone in wielding suicidally apodictic statements, and such statements tend to ratchet each other up in a kind of 'Wechselwirkung' that ought to be familiar to anyone who has ever found himself enmeshed in an argumentative economy of reciprocated vituperation." What? John Burt is an English Professor. Surely he must have heard of Jonathan Swift and the Plain Style...if only he had employed it in this book.
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By phillip a burkholder on March 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book simply blew me away. Rarely have I read such a nuanced treatment of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and their significance for today's politics. If you want to be reaffirmed in your confidence in liberalism as a winning political philosophy this is the book. Simply astonishing.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard Burstein on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I find the book endlessly absorbing. I enjoy the historic detail and placing the struggle between Lincoln and Douglas in a values context. The study of the Dred Scott decision is quite informative. I am compelled by the vision of Lincoln moving himself and the nation towards the goal of racial equality as implicit in his positions, but perhaps only imperfectly and gradually realized as being so by Lincoln himself. I do think that the book makes a more cogent argument for Douglas' position that politics needs to be a way that controversies are contained short of violence than Douglas did himself - as the author acknowledges. Interest politics could not resolve the question of slavery, as the book makes forcefully clear. I get the sense from this book, as I have from biographies of Lincoln and Douglas, that the two were on historic tectonic plates, each moving past each other, the one into the future, the other not.
Burt's work is a treasure to read.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict
This item: Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict
Price: $31.26
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com

Want to discover more products? Check out this page to see more: civil war history