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.com, " 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.

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