Benjamin Franklin presents us with layers of confounding mystery. And that’s how he wanted it. From his earliest creation — a set of letters to the editor of the New-England Courant written under the pseudonym Silence Dogood — he hid himself behind masks that let him speak frankly yet always ambiguously. Both what he said and how are keys to his enduring appeal. Guest Ralph Lerner joins us to discuss how we might discern some of Franklin’s principles, and what the founding father can still teach us today about the arts of persuasion and self-government.
Ralph Lerner is the Benjamin Franklin Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.
This podcast discusses themes from Ralph’s essay in the Spring 2021 issue of National Affairs, “Puzzling over Franklin.”