Imitate Jesus, Socrates and Franklin

Published: 2021-08-31 08:55:12
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Category: American History

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History 205
November 22, 2010
Essay Assignment:
Imitate Jesus, Socrates...And Franklin

Around 1730, while in his late 20s, American publisher and future statesman Benjamin Franklin came up with a "bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection" (Franklin p.148). Franklin's project involved listing thirteen virtues that he felt were important guides for living. His purpose for this project was "to live without committing any fault at any time". He hoped that by practicing these virtues, that he believed would better his character, he could overcome natural inclination and bad habits that lead to wrongful doing. He had a strategic method of keeping track of and recording his progress of moral perfection that allowed him to reflect on his actions throughout the day. Franklin hoped society would follow his example thus providing for a more productive and successful republican government. The virtues he believed to be righteous can be divided into two groups: personal behavior and social character traits, that Franklin tried to follow as guides in his life.
Benjamin Franklin used a lot of reading and research in narrowing down his moral virtues. He found that authors had conflicting ideas of what each virtue encompassed. To clarify any confusion he chose more virtues with more narrow interpretations, instead of having a single virtue comprise many meanings. This was necessary for his reflections, because it was easier to reflect upon a single definition of a virtue than try to reflect on a broad definition. His list included thirteen virtues that he deemed "necessary or desirable, and annex'd to each a short precept, which fully express'd the extend [he] gave to its meaning." (Franklin p. 149) Among all the thirteen virtues two different categories emerged that each attribute can be classified under. The first set is personal and the second is social character traits. Eight of the virtues are personal virtues that relate to one's attitude toward activities and their challenges. Franklin believed following these personal traits will better your chances of success in achieving your goals. These virtues are not only helpful to society, but make each individual a better person that will truly make them a better person in their life by following. The personal virtues started off with temperance. He explained it as eat not to dullness nor drink to elevation, but keep everything in moderation. Next he described order as having a place for not only all things, but also your time should be in order as well. Business should have its time along with other aspects of your life. It is not healthy to have one area of your life, such as work or a hobby take over too much time in your life. This also has to do with the virtue of moderation, moderating the time of each activity throughout the day. Franklin then described resolution as a way to "resolve to perform what you ought and perform without fail what you resolve" (Franklin p. 149). Frugality was his virtue about waste. It means to make no expense but to do well to others or yourself. He criticizes waste, saying one should waste nothing. Then came moderation meaning to avoid extremes and to refrain from resenting injuries as you think they deserve. Industry was about not losing or squandering your life away and to always be employed in something useful while cutting off all unnecessary actions. Tolerating no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation was Franklin's description of his virtue of cleanliness. Last of the personal virtues is tranquility which Franklin described as to not be "disturbed at trifles, or at accidents that are common or unavoidable." This includes life's everyday stresses and challenges and having the strength to face life's obstacles as an important part of one's character.

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