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July 11, 1966

Abraham Lincoln's Philosophy of Common Sense: An Analytical Biography of a Great Mind

Author Affiliations



3 parts, by Edward J. Kempf, Special Publication of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol 6; 1,443 pp, with illus, New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1965.

JAMA. 1966;197(2):156-157. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110020144068

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These three volumes purportedly comprise a "scientifically oriented analytical biography." The author first compiled in great detail the events in Lincoln's life, many well documented but some not. Then Kempf integrated Lincoln's youthful experiences with later behavior, attempting to prove that the former caused the latter. At the present time the historical validity of such a technique remains moot. As literature, this analytical biography is an unqualified failure. A typical paragraph, selected from the first chapter, exemplifies both the "analytical" procedure and the literary style:

In youth and maturity Lincoln was unable to focus both eyes for any length of time without volitional strain. Herein existed a definite unconscious involitional determinant of a special form of self-righting compensation on conscious learning. He must not only use right eye vision against out-of-focus left eye vision; but he must consciously and conscientiously see in his mind's eye the morally right and better

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