Author’s Spotlight: Abraham Lincoln: Philosopher Statesman

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A. Sue Weisler

Abraham Lincoln: Philosopher Statesman, written by Joseph Fornieri, professor of political science, College of Liberal Arts

Joseph Fornieri, professor of political science in RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, has published his newest book about Abraham Lincoln that explores the essence of the 16th president’s political greatness or statesmanship in terms of the virtues of wisdom, duty, and patriotism, among others. As a political philosopher, Fornieri probes the question of what constitutes political greatness and how this greatness was embodied by Lincoln. Does greatness include goodness?

In the book, Fornieri, director of RIT’s newly established Center for Statesmanship, Law and Liberty and a renowned Lincoln expert, reveals Lincoln’s philosophical statesmanship as a marriage of greatness of thought and action. According to Fornieri, Lincoln’s thought can be included in the ranks of great philosophers such as Plato, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche for what he says about human nature, free markets and society, but he was also a practical man of action. Fornieri believes it’s this union that makes him so great.

“The purpose of this work is to reveal Lincoln’s ‘political genius’ in terms of the traditional moral vision of statesmanship or statecraft as understood by the epic political philosophers Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, and do so in an accessible manner,” said Fornieri. “It is my contention that the 16th president was a philosopher statesman in whom political thought and action were united.”

As head of the statesmanship center, Fornieri is working to engage students and the public about political greatness and supports research and teachings on the question of “What makes a great statesman?”

“I believe that the task of a political philosopher is to investigate norms and standards of judgment that provide perspectives that enable us to determine between great, good, better or worse when evaluating politics,” he added. “It’s my hope that this book may further, in some small way, the revival of statesmanship in both theory and practice in our time.”