Ben Franklin: Awesome

I’m stuck this week with yet another round of revisions on my last dissertation chapter, so more posts about science and books will have to wait.  I doubt too many of you are disappointed, but I do want to share one quick thing.  I am currently reading Walter Issacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin.  Not only is it highly entertaining, it reminds me that Franklin is undoubtedly the Founding Father of Badassery.

Franklin was clever and irreverent.  The authorities punished his brother for publishing a newspaper whose sole tendency was to mock religion.  And Franklin himself believed in an impersonal God that had no need of worship or prayer.  But despite his rejection of dogma and false piety, Franklin believed that it was every person’s duty to cultivate virtue and help others, adding, “A virtuous heretic shall be saved before a wicked Christian.”  He developed a list of twelve virtues agreeable to all men and all religions.  And for each virtue, he added a definition that is wickedly clever (especially the last one).

Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations
Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing
Industry: Lose not time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly
Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty
Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think you deserve
Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation
Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable
Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation

Accused of pride, Franklin later added a 13th virtue:

Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Franklin worked on one virtue a week, keeping a notebook of all his infractions. Given all I have to do this week, I think I’ll work on the third one.


One thought on “Ben Franklin: Awesome

  1. Pingback: The Religion of Benjamin Franklin | darwinbookcats

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