Sunday, July 3, 2011

232. Benjamin Franklin's Art of Virtue

The late Professor Alfred Owen Aldridgeidentified that Benjamin Franklin's Art of Virtue was copied from Confucius. Thanks to the Google, his book The Dragon and the Eagle: The Presence of China in the American Enlightenment is available online. Because of the publication of Dr. Dave Wang's essay, Benjamin Franklin and China, it has become known that Franklin received positive influences from Chinese civilization.

However, I personally think that the word “copy” is a little bit too strong. Franklin indeed published word by word in his widely circulated Pennsylvania Gazette --The New York Times of the 18th Century--some chapters of Confucius Moral philosophy adopted from the book, Morals of Confucius, published in 1691 in London and republished in 1708 and 1714 respectively. However, Franklin didn't take all of the teachings as a whole from Confucius, but instead took what he considered would benefit the colonists in North America. In this sense, I agree with Dr. Wang's opinion that Franklin drew nourishments from the positive elements of Chinese civilization.

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