BY BENJAMIN FRANKLINMoral Perfection from Autobiographyand Poor Richards Almanack1706 - 1790
Benjamin Franklin: The ManA noted polymath: author, printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, soldier, and diplomatThe most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would becomeWhy would this voice be important to readers during this period?
Why Moral Perfection Franklin writes Moral Perfectionat the age of 79 (lives to 84)He signed all three documents that created this nationWhat do we expect? -- Embellishment or a realistic chronicle? Why?
What is the authors intent in writing Moral Perfection?I conceivd the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection (Franklin 130)Wants to become a more pious person (dutifully devoted to doing something right with the expectation of this goal never being met)
Franklins new code to conduct ones life =Secular piety + hard work + material signs + success = power and prestige
self-made healthy/wealthy/wise Franklins own life from humble beginnings result of a life lived right most accomplished personVsPuritan codeReligious piety + hard work + signs from God = Success
IntentionsIs he optimistic about his endeavor?What qualifies his optimism?High goals => He really thinks he canHe found that wanting is not enough -- you have to work at it and have a methodology (pragmatism) Rather than cite the 10 Commandments, he gave us 13 Virtues (what does this do to tone?)
How did Franklin monitor his attempt at moral perfection?He made a chart -- the methodology by which to measure his progressWhat was his formula for success?Focus on one virtue a week. Why?Tackle one problem at a time (i.e., baby steps)Complete course = 13 weeks; 4 courses in one yearImprove ones moral conduct with practice and devotion
Which virtue did Franklin have the most difficulty with?ORDERWhy?His business put him at the service of others => must adapt his schedule to his clientsDifficulty keeping things organized (e.g., papers, work orders, his daily chart of virtuous behavior)Business and lifes demands get in the way of our systems of arrangementHe also usually relied on memory (but he is now 79 => an old man, weak memory)
What did Franklin learn from his experiment at moral perfection?I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order (Franklin 134)i.e., Could not be corrected or improved in regard to this virtueyet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it (Franklin 134)i.e., The experiment improved his moral character, though he still has human foibles
The American Myth is BornFranklins story = from rags to richesObscure birthRise to prominence through hard workSuccess and happinessBlessings of heavenLearns lessons (self-improvement)Who better to appear here
TONEFamiliarDigressiveSelf-deprecatingAvuncular (not paternal)Witty
Any foolishness or doting is calculated.The kindly old man will show us how to live a good life.
How should we live, Ben?FrugalSimpleHonest ResourcefulIndustriousThe What Keenly aware of the importance of self-command for both individual flourishing and effective social activity, Franklin understood why the turbulent human soul must first be tamed if we are to become reasonable, free, and responsible social beings and citizens. Moral Perfection is a guidebook to at once bettering the self while establishing an ideal national identity
FRANKLIN = The Exemplary AmericanThe Philadelphia EverymanSingle-handedly shapes the American MythAutobiography venerates a society that allows for maximum development of the individualWe can rise to prominence through our own merits, w/o interference from monarchy, aristocracy, or Church
How should we consider Franklins text in Poor Richard?Poor Richards Almanack reflected Franklins wit and wisdomOriginally named The Way to WealthWhat does this title suggest about Franklins purpose?Why might this title appeal to Puritans?A yearly almanac published by Franklin, who adopted the pseudonym of "Poor RichardAppeared continually from 1732 to 1758.Contained the calendar, weather, poems, astronomical and mathematical exercisesBut it is chiefly known for its APHORISMS These sayings typically counsel thrift and courtesy, with a dash of cynicism.They are a guidebook for American behavior by a model American.