"My book is on the political philosophy of a Roman imperial official named Pliny the Elder," said Laehn. "Pliny was the procurator, or chief financial officer, of several Roman provinces, a personal adviser to the Emperor Vespasian and the author of the world's first encyclopedia, "The Natural History." He died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 while serving as the commander of the Roman imperial fleet at Misenum."
According to Laehn, Pliny has been derided for centuries as little more than an inept compiler of facts and intellectually incapable of formulating an argument supported through the selective marshaling of his materials. "Through my book, I offer a radical reinterpretation of the architecture of Pliny's encyclopedia, exposing fundamental errors in the inherited understanding of the text traceable to its initial reception in ancient Rome."
He said the recognition of the text's true structure reveals Pliny's encyclopedia is in fact a first-rate work of political philosophy constituting "an apology for Roman imperial expansionism grounded in a sophisticated account of human nature."
Dr. Ellis Sandoz, a political philosopher at Louisiana State University, describes Laehn's book as an "elegant study [that] decisively breaks with all received interpretations." According to Sandoz, "It establishes a new standard of critical comprehension, both of its subject and of its significance as work of first importance for political philosophy itself."
Similarly, according to Dr. Barry Cooper, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, "Laehn shows persuasively that Pliny has been misinterpreted for two millennia … Seldom does one encounter a fundamental reinterpretation of a well-known text; even rarer is to find such an account as exciting and intellectually stimulating as this one."
Laehn received his bachelor's degree in political science and philosophy at Drake University in Des Moines and his master's degree and doctorate in political science at Louisiana State University. He teaches courses in political theory, American constitutional law and American political institutions and currently holds the McLeod Endowed Professorship at McNeese.