Ben Franklin’s Virtue

In Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, his thirteen points of Virtue indicate the notion of striving for “moral Perfection,” which does not always match “Custom” (84). Franklin calls for social etiquette, such as not drinking too much or contributing to a conversation that does not “benefit others or your self” (85). Franklin’s other virtues involve physical cleanliness and smart economical choices (85-86). Franklin deems sex only pertinent for reproduction and “Health”; another interesting virtue is not letting “Trifles” or inevitable pitfalls bring down one’s morality (85). Franklin’s motive behind his virtues is self-improvement and being the best possible version of himself (84-86). He wants to come as close as he can to the “Humility” of “Jesus and Socrates” (86).

Franklin rejects organized religion, and in these virtues, he focuses more on the self than salvation through “the Deity” (82). Using Smith and Watson’s definition on authority, Franklin is pretty bold to assert that his list of virtues improves the “Good” of “Man,” though the community should be attending church services, except for him (82-83). Franklin’s “‘right’” to spout off what he deems virtuous is questionable when he does not practice his own opinions (RA, 237; BF, 83).

Franklin’s beliefs are more contemporary than the Puritans. Puritanism based itself on scripture, and Franklin’s mention of Socrates, one of the most famous Greek philosophers, illustrates his more progressive perspective. The Puritans believed that only a select few would be saved by God, so it did not matter how virtuous one lived their life or not, because it probably would not matter in the long run. Ben Franklin believed in bettering the self through self-examination, going as far as keeping track of his daily “committed” virtues (87). His method puts his “Faults” in print, and he attempts to change how people view him, such as in conversation to not seem so “proud” (90, 94-95). Franklin admits that attaining moral perfection, (the ultimate hurtle is getting over one’s pride) is not realistic (95).

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.