Friday, August 24, 2012

276. Benjamin Franklin Started to Culivate His Virtue in 1726

As early as in 1726 Franklin was determined to cultivate his virtue. Franklin stated: I have never fixed a regular design in life; by which means it has been a confused variety of different scenes. I am now entering upon a new one: let me, therefore, make some resolutions, and form some scheme of action, that, henceforth, I may live in all respects like a rational creature." On October 11, 1726, after about three month’s life on the ocean, Franklin returned to Philadelphia. It was about this time he started his “bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.

He stated that “I wish’d to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.” Shortly Franklin compiled a list of thirteen virtues he thought to be the most important elements that would contribute to the development of his virtue. The thirteen virtues constitute the main content in Franklin’s drive for moral faultlessness. According to Franklin himself, this system of behavior made him “not only successful but a better person.” It is worthy to examine the sources of the thirteen virtues. In addition to the above thirteen virtues, another virtue - charity, love of one’s fellow man, deserves to be mentioned here.

It has been regarded as the “great principle” of Franklin’s life. The fact that Franklin did not include this important virtue into his moral cultivating principles has induced scholars’ curiosity. One of the convincing answers to the question provided by Professor Morgan is widely accepted by Franklin scholars. According to him, Franklin’s omission was that Franklin wanted to “affirm[ing] to himself the superiority of a ‘moral perfection’ that has nothing to do with Christianity.” If you compare Franklin's fourteen virtues with Confucius moral codes, you will find out that eleven out of Franklin’s fourteen values are inspired by the Morals of Confucius.

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