Thursday, October 27, 2011

Franklin's Virtues

In his time, and in even still in ours, Franklin was thought of with huge respect and affection. He accomplished an amazing variety of things in his life. One of the reasons for that is his work ethic, and the reason that he is so well loved by Americans is probably the same. He attributed his morals to the system he devised to make himself a better person, and whether or not they really did is the matter soon to be examined.
One reason that faith can be put into Benjamin Franklin's system is that in his autobiography he writes about how well it worked for him personally. He writes, "I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish" (Franklin 156-157). His personal affirmation of his system's success gives it a lot of credit. Rather ironically, his word is worth so much because of his impeccable character, and his character was considered so impeccable because of the system of virtues he practiced. The irony is that he was using his impeccable character to give weight to the system of virtues that produced said character.
It may be easy to lie to a single person, or even just a few, but lies become more difficult the more people you try to trick. That makes it a little bit difficult to believe that Benjamin Franklin had the entire world fooled into think that he was an amazing person if he really was not. Even sixty-six years after his death, authors were still practically gushing about the wonders of Benjamin Franklin. Henry T. Tuckerman writes,
"Never dawned a self-reliant character more opportunely on the world; at home, illustrating to a new country what perseverance, honesty, observation, and wisdom can effect with the most limited resources; abroad, proving to an ancient regime how independent a genuine man may be of courts, academics, and luxury;" both the most requisite lessons for which humanity thirsted, and both enforced with an attractive candor, a gracious consistency, a modest resolution, which no argument could attain and no rhetoric enhance."
Benjamin Fanklin is one of the most loved characters in American history, and it would not be at all possible for that to be true if he was not such a warm and friendly person. As it is, when today's Americans think of the founding fathers, Ben Franklin is one of the first people thought of, along with other such giants of American history. That is really what we see Franklin as, an intellectual giant that shaped the government and attitude of the entire country.
Based on the above stated evidence, it is pretty clear that Ben Franklin's virtues were very effective. He recognized a change in himself because of them, and also gained the love of his countrymen and people around the world. Is anymore evidence really needed? Franklin made himself a better person because of his virtues, and because Franklin was such a good person our country is a better place.

Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. New Haven: Yale UP, 1964.

Bloom, Harold, ed. "The Character of Franklin." Benjamin Franklin, Classic Critical Views. New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2008. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. October 27, 2011.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Franklin's Autobiography

Benjamin Franklin spent a large amount of time and thought on his virtues, and on what exactly it takes to be a good person. I think that the virtues Benjamin Franklin tried to work on are very much deistic. They are based on reason, insted of what the bible said merely because the bible said it. He writes his reasons for his virtues and also the reason for his order of virtues and the reason for his system of implementing his virtues. Can a more reasonable system be imagined?

According to, " Deism is knowledge of God based on the application of our reason on the designs/laws found throughout Nature." Taking that into consideration, it makes sense that deistic morals would also be based on reason, as Benjamin Franklin's are. He puts a good deal of his own thought into his list and system for being a good person. In his autobiography, he also makes sure he explains all of that thought so it makes sense to anyone who reads about his virtues. When explaining the reason for adding humility to his list of virtues, he writes,

"I soon found the advantage of this change in my manners; the conversations I engaged in went on more pleasantly. The modest way in which I proposed my opinion procured them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong; and I more easily prevailed with others to give up their mistakes and join with me, when I happened to be in the right." (Franklin 163)

He is explaining that he chose to add humility to his list of virtues because it made conversations better and made arguments easier to win. This virtue was added because he thought it was a good idea, rather than because it was one of the bible's teachings, and that makes his virtue deistic. He also wrote about how he disliked his Presbyterian church. He wrote that the morals it taught were pertaining to the church only, and not at all relating to how to be a good person in general (Franklin 146). Also lacking was any reasoning in the system of morals his church presented. He stopped going to church for this exact reason, and made his own system of morals.

Likewise, the manner in which he chose his virtues and how he described them are reminiscent of Deism. He writes that he chose to use quite a few virtues with specific meanings to keep himself from trying to focus on too much at once, and from spreading his attentions too thin. He was worried about trying to do too much at once and about failing at everything because of it. The way he went about deciding on his virtues was very rational, and instead of spending his time studying the bible and basing his system off of the morals it taught, based them off of his own reason. Because his morals were based on his reasoning instead of being gotten second hand from the local priest, I think his morals are very deistic in nature.

"Deism Defined." Welcome To The Deism Site! Web. 26 Oct. 2011. .
Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. New Haven: Yale UP, 1964. Print.

Journal 14

I honestly have no idea what a day in the life a Benjamin Franklin would be like, and as for the thought of what I would do as his apprentice, it is irrelevant. Girls were never apprenticed. Although I guess the entire subject is irrelevant because I am no more a young man than I am alive during a time in which I could have even met him. So I guess all that is relevant for me to think about is what a day in the life of Benjamin Franklin would be like.

I guess what he would do in a day really depends a lot on what age he was. He lived in England for a while, and after that owned a printing press. During that time I suppose he would spend his day at his business, printing and the like. After he retired he started conducting experiments with electricity, and would have spent his days on such tests as he could devise. He was also involved with the politics of his community, and later of the entire country. He wrote many letters to different friends, and wrote an autobiography besides. I would imagine that these things took up a good deal of his time, as writing is generally a slow process without modern pens that do not need dipped in ink every few words.

It somewhat baffles me how he could accomplish so much in his life, and how he balanced out his days and life. Maybe he alternated hours with his different tasks, spending one writing, another inventing, and another after that experimenting. Perhaps he spent entire days on a single subject until its object was accomplished, like I typically find myself doing. With all of these different activities in his life, he also managed to invent many things that made peoples' lives easier and safer. His life has me wondering what is possible for people like me if he could do so much in his life.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Journal 13

I think that the American dream is really the same as it has always been, at least in essence. I think that a lot of people have perverted it over time, and made it entirely materialistic. In my opinion, the American dream is that a person can come here and be free to make their own choices and lives their lives as they see best, and if a person works hard enough, they can become successful.

Maybe in past decades people have equivocated the American dream with owning a house, having a nice car, and other material things of that nature. Those things are just products of the freedom we enjoy here in America. It is not possible to own a house in Communist countries, and in tyrannies upward mobility is almost impossible. In America people have the freedom to make their own choices and do what they want with their lives, and that just does not always happen.

So if I had to sum up the American dream in one word, it would be freedom. Maybe this is just me, but I would travel to all ends of the earth trying to find the most freedom I could, and as far as I know America is still the freest country on earth. If you do not have freedom to live your life the way you want, then what is the point of living it at all? It seems to me that if everyone else makes decisions for you, then it is not really your life, but the live someone else is making for you. That is why the American dream is so important. Without freedom, life loses meaning and value, at least for me it does.

I am not sure if there are other people like me that still believe that this is the American dream, but even if I am alone I can still have my own strange opinion regardless of anyone else.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Right and Wrong

If I were to make my own rules about right and wrong, the first thing I would decide is that it is wrong to take advantage of people for any reason whatever. It does not matter if you steal from them, hurt them, or pretend you love them to try to get over your last girlfriend (even though that last example may be a bit too specific and personal). It is just not right. What claim do other people have to what belongs to you, to what you have worked for? In my opinion they should not have any. Using people emotionally is even worse, because then not only do you have something taken from you, like a first kiss, but that something that gets taken away means much more than any physical object a person could possibly covet. And unlike physical objects, a first kiss and time wasted are things that can not ever be gotten back. Maybe if something is stolen from you you would be upset, but if that something is not a physical object, you are more than upset. You are heartbroken.

The only other important rule I can think of is that people should never lie. I think that should include lying by withholding information. A person cannot make a reasonable decision or govern their feelings properly if they are basing such decisions on information that is wrong. Everyone knows that it is wrong to mislead people, so why do people do it? lying makes the person lied to feel manipulated and very, very hurt. It would be very hard to stand if someone you cared about lied to you in that manner, and depending on how much that person was cared about, it could really destroy a friendship and everything good in a person's life (and for once I am not being overly dramatic).

I am beginning to think that this was a very bad choice of journal topic to assign to me today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ben Franklin's writing style

Ben Franklin had a very interesting writing style. He writes with enough details to give a good picture of what things were like for him, and yet he does not go into really deep detail of things. His writing does have some similarities to puritan writing, like that he normally seems to use short declarative sentences, and that he comments on things like human nature in the middle of his stories. One of the key differences is that Ben Franklin does use a good deal of detail in his writing, something that the Puritans never really did.

Ben Franklin uses the same sort of declarative sentences that the Puritan writers used. One example is when he writes about how he describes how he fixed his problem with getting a passage to Philadelphia. He simply writes "She proposed to lodge me till a passage by some other boat occurred. I accepted her offer, being much fatigued by traveling on foot. (Franklin 107)" One of the many Puritan writers who wrote in this style was Mary Rowlandson. Her account of her time as a captive is written almost entirely in short plain sentences (Rowlandson 82-85).

Another thing that Ben Franklin does similar to puritan style is comment on human nature. When he writes about his arrival in Philadelphia he mentions that people are more generous when they have less to share (Franklin 108). Puritan writers did this sort of thing all of the time because their main focus in life was pleasing God through refining their imperfect human natures. The Puritan writer Anne Bradstreet talks in one of her poems about how people like herself sometimes place too much value on the things of the world (Bradstreet 91). I thought it was very strange to see these things in common between the two styles until I realized that Ben Franklin also wrote an almanac full of comments on human nature, and then it made sense.

One thing Ben Franklin does differently is that he uses a fair amount of descriptive words in his writing. When he describes his arrival in Philadelphia I could nearly picture quite a few of the details of the streets and people he saw. This is different from Puritan writing because when I read Puritan writing the settings always seem bare and plain to me. One other difference in Ben Franklin's writing is the he does not reference God or acts of providence all of the time. In fact, i do not believe there was even one in the passages I read. This is very diferent from Puritans because with Puritan writing it is impossible to go four sentences without reading about pleasing God or acts of providence.

While there may be a few similarities between Ben Franklin's writing style and puritan writing, they are both very different from each other. Ben Franklin lived through a good deal of American history, so he may have even been alive in the Puritan period. That being said, he also lived through the rationalist period and must have been influenced by it.

Bradstreet, Anne. "Upon the Burning of Our House." Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D. and Douglas Fisher, Ph.D. Glencoe Literature. American Literature ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 97-99. Print.

Franklin, Ben. "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin." Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D. and Douglas Fisher, Ph.D. Glencoe Literature. American Literature ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 97-99. Print.

Rowlandson, Mary. "A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson." Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D. and Douglas Fisher, Ph.D. Glencoe Literature. American Literature ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 97-99. Print.

Journal 11

The two aphorisms that I like most are that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and that the worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise. Those two statements put together give a pretty good picture of the story of my life. . . That is pretty much all I think I need to say about that, but I will elaborate further anyway.

So as an example, I will talk about my little sister and myself when we were younger. Dani was always the squeaky wheel. From the day she was born she was never afraid of being loud, and everyone knew it. I was the exact opposite as a kid. I was quiet and never asked for anything unless I needed it or really wanted it. Besides that I was never really one to make a big deal about things. If I had a problem I would either ask mom about it or try fixing it myself. Not Dani though. If something was wrong everyone would know it the instant it happened. This difference of personalities still exists today.

Keeping the first aphorism in mind, you can probably guess who got the most attention when we were kids, and even still today. That sibling would be Dani. I do not envy her for it, or anything like that, because I know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

As an example of my second favorite aphorism, I look at high school. Just think of the loudest person in a certain class, and then think of what their merits are. They are probably few and not likely to be useful in future life. The bad wheels always make more noise. Maybe it is because they want to draw attention away from their shortcomings. Anyway, just think of which group of people gets the most attention from the school staff. It is always those loud, thoughtless kids. Thus the squeaky wheels get the grease, and the worst wheels make the most noise.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Crisis No. 1

The Crisis is exactly the sort of piece that I enjoy reading most. Its talks about victory over tyranny and how hard work in hard times gives way to glorious freedom. Perfect. Even with these emotional arguments, the document still fits very well into the rationalist style of writing because of all of the reason it uses to justify the hard work and loss the revolution requires.

Thomas Paine compares the king and parliament to common thieves and robbers, saying that if a common person attempted to control him in the same way, he would certainly rebel against them. The fact that it is a king instead of a commoner makes no difference (Paine 136). This is an argument based on reason to have people consider just how unfair the English government had treated them. Another rational argument used is that when parliament passed the Declaratory Act containing the phrase "to bind [the colonies] in all cases whatsoever" it basically amounted to slavery (Paine 134). While this argument does appeal a good deal to emotion, it also has its base in reason. If parliament can make the colonies bend to its every bonny whim, then the colonies really have no will of their own and might as well be enslaved.

Although this pamphlet was to be read aloud to the members of the Continental Army, it was not written for them alone. The Crisis was written for everybody in America. It was written for people who could do still more, and for people who were still on the fence about whether or not the revolution was a good thing. The purpose was not only to convince the soldiers to keep fighting, but also to try to convince more people to join the fight for independence. Thomas Paine writes, "Say not that thousands are gone- turn out your tens of thousands; throw not the burden of the day upon Providence, but "show your faith by your works," that God may bless you." (Paine 136) This was directed toward the religious people in the colonies (also known as all of them), and to pull them into the revolutionary conflict. By presenting the Revolutionary War as a struggle of good against evil as he does, he really makes the reader want to join the cause. When I read it even I could not help but think that if I had been living at the time and had read that pamphlet, I would have done absolutely everything in my power to help in the revolution.

Thomas Paine's primary reason for writing The Crisis was to gather up support for the revolution. He truly believed that the American Revolution was worth all of the hardship that came with it, and that he was doing his best to further the cause of liberty. The Crisis probably had a very great impact on the people of the colonies, and probably caused many otherwise indifferent people to join the cause of liberty. The Crisis was a very effective pamphlet.

Paine, Thomas. "The Crisis No.1." Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D. and Douglas Fisher, Ph.D. Glencoe Literature. American Literature ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 97-99. Print.