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Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason Hardcover – November 14, 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


A brilliant study. . . . The authors conclusively demonstrate how the self-taught Lincoln mastered Euclidean Geometry and used Euclid's elements in his most famous speeches, including the Gettysburg Address and the Cooper Union Address. Understanding geometry helped organize Lincoln's mind, his writing, and his political skills. To David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften, all students of Abraham Lincoln and our democracy are indebted. (Frank J. Williams, Chair, The Lincoln Forum, and Retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island)

No one has examined Euclidian logic alongside Lincoln's rhetorical and written construction as thoroughly as Mssrs. Hirsch and Van Haften, and the results are startling. We continue to shed our shopworn image of Lincoln as a low-gear country lawyer as we learn more about his cases, and now with this study we see a wholly new angle of his brilliance -- which nevertheless must keep us wondering, How did Lincoln do it? Picking apart his Cooper Institute speech for its inner structure, for example, they reveal how deeply Lincoln had imbibed the classical principles of organization, and how it made him the lawyer and politician he was. Hirsch and Van Haften also offer a guidebook not just for attorneys bent on the same self-improvement, but the simple tools for anyone to do as Lincoln did: learn how to learn, and then demonstrate the rightness of your position. (James M. Cornelius, Curator, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum)

From the Author

This book was a thrill to write. Its core revelation is the proposition that Abraham Lincoln used the six elements of a geometric proposition as the structural framework for his major speeches from 1854 on. The elements are: 1. Enunciation, 2. Exposition, 3. Specification, 4. Construction, 5. Proof, and 6. Conclusion. The Enunciation contains a Given and a Sought. Each element has a one sentence definition.
The Enunciation contains indisputable foundational fact (in the Given), and a general statement of the issue (in the Sought). The Exposition, and Construction are factually based. The Enunciation's Sought, the Specification, and the Conclusion, provide logical direction. Argument is precisely timed, and appears solely in the Proof.
Properly done the Proof is anticipated by the listener or reader, and the Conclusion is self-evident. Facts provide an iron foundation for logic perfectly weaved. Credibility is maximized, and civility comes naturally.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Savas Beatie; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (November 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932714898
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932714890
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,706,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason is a comprehensive study of how Lincoln developed his command of logic, reason and argument both as an attorney and political giant. I always thought Lincoln, like many politicians, had an innate ability to communicate ideas. The book contends that such skills can be learned. Portions of the book require deep thought regarding the mathematical concepts needed to understand Lincoln's approach, but the authors effectively break the materials into reasonable portions. As a litigation attorney, I really appreciated the historical detail of practicing law in the mid-1800's and would highly recommend the book to other attorneys, especially younger attorneys who wish to understand the roots of the profession and how to develop the timeless art of persuasion from one of the best. A fascinating read.
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Format: Hardcover
In "Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason," authors David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften write that Lincoln used Euclid's principles of geometry to structure many of his speeches, legal arguments, and writings. In Chapter 3, "Honest Abe?," they write that Lincoln misused Euclid in his 1860 speech at Cooper Union by misconstruing the votes cast by three of the Framers of the Constitution on the issue of the power of the federal government to control slavery in the federal territories.

The authors recite a long list of problems with Lincoln's arguments. The question mark after "Honest Abe" in the chapter's title seems to imply that he was less than honest. The authors make this implication explicit, over and over. Lincoln, they write, "confused the issue" and "stretched the math" (p. 48). He "finessed" the votes of three of the Framers (p. 50). He "employed a verbal shell game" by "overstating his conclusion" (p. 50). There was "weakness in Lincoln's argument" (p. 51). The genius of his speech was in "the skillful stretching of the context of the facts" (emphasis in original, p. 51). He "manufactured three votes" by giving them "a significance they did not have" (p. 51). He used "sleight of hand" (p. 53). Lincoln "slyly manipulated the counting" (p. 52). There was "carefully orchestrated equivocation" (p. 53). The facts Lincoln presented at Cooper Union were not in dispute, but the "stretch" he made was in "the legal effect of those undisputed facts" (p. 54). The authors suggest a possible violation of the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

Lincoln was not dishonest. The authors write that "the issue Lincoln addressed was whether the Constitution forbids the federal government from regulating slavery in the territories.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a lawyer I've long been fascinated with how speakers and writers persuade others. I can't imagine anyone else that persuaded others in more difficult circumstances than Abraham Lincoln. This book was terrific in explaining how Lincoln structured his arguments and speeches. Written in a clear and effective manner, I gained enough insight to start using some of Lincoln's techniques in my own writings and arguments. Lincoln was a master of persuasion and I am thankful I had the opportunity to read this book. I highly recommend this book if you wish to improve your skills of persuasion or if you just want to learn more about the mastery of Abraham Lincoln.
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Format: Hardcover
Saying Abraham Lincoln is a brilliant writer will cause few arguments. Lincoln increased our vocabulary of phrases while defining how we see ourselves. His words are as fresh now as when spoken, the appeal to our better nature has not diminished. Many theories exist on how a self-education person could write such inspiring words. This book presents a compelling argument that Euclidean Geometry is the answer.

The book opens with a look at Lincoln as a student. Lincoln recalled his education as "readin, wrttin, and cipherin' and everything else learned "under the pressure of necessity". The authors maintain in "Unlocking Lincoln" that Lincoln transferred geometry into speech. The balance of the book looks at specific speeches and or incidents from Lincoln's life illustrating the development or application of this theory. The book's Appendix contains a series of Lincoln's speeches where the author's apply their idea illustrating how Lincoln applied Euclidean Geometry in each speech.

This is a serious and complex book. One author is an attorney and co-author of the technology column for the American Bar Association Journal. The other has a MS in mathematics and a PHD in electrical engineering. There is a series of charts and tables summarizing their ideas throughout the book. While not an easy read, it is not an impossible one. I followed the text with little difficulty for this type of book. The book is fully footnoted, indexed and contains a full bibliography.

This book will appeal to Lincoln scholars and mathematicians but is an informative read for our Civil War community. While not for everyone it is an above average book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason provides a meaningful insight into the process used by Lincoln to analyze issues, and develop an effective way of expounding his analysis to others. The pieces reviewed also give a better understanding of the details of the issues in that important time of history. I have long enjoyed reading about the military history of the Civil War era. After reading this book, I came away with what I consider a much better understanding of Abraham Lincoln as a person. It will stimulate additional reading.
The appendices of the book contain a number of Lincoln's speeches, and letters. After reading the text of the book, I found these to be very interesting and informative. I don't usually spend much time in the appendix.
As a layman, the format of the book also helps provide a much better appreciation of the legal process. Time reading this book is well spent.
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