Thursday, October 2, 2014
367. Ben Franklin Descendants on Dr. Dave Wang’s Study of the Founder
Dave Wang of St. John’s University made the bold claim that Confucius was Franklin’s moral exemplar, and that 11 out of his 13 virtues were inspired by “The Morals of Confucius.” According to Dr. Wang, Franklin “consistently and systematically promoted the main principles of the Confucian moral philosophy” in his adult life. Is this wishful thinking, or a breakthrough about the source of Franklin’s personal philosophy? There are indeed some of Franklin’s virtues that are closely linked with Confucian philosophy. Franklin is clearly attracted to the Stoic philosophy of meditation, calm, reason, silence, and avoiding the extremes of anger, fear, and the emotions of mobs. But was this taken from Confucius, or from the Greeks, the Romans, and King Solomon?
According to Confucius, rulers and ministers had a special obligation to live a strict moral code and to teach it to their followers. Franklin approved of this approach. In a letter in 1749, he commended Rev. George Whitefield for preaching to high-ranking officials in government. “If you can gain them to a good and exemplary life, wonderful changes will follow in the manners of the lower ranks.” He then cited Confucius on this principle. “When he saw his country sunk in vice, and wickedness of all kinds triumphant, he applied himself first to the grandees; and having by his doctrine won them to the cause of virtue, the commons followed in multitudes.” Above all, Franklin loved the Chinese tradition of honoring the elderly."
The above is from Dr. Mark Skousen, “The Chinese Influence on Franklin” in Franklin Prosperity Report April 2011 / Vol. 3, No. 4 Note: Mark Skousen, Ph.D., a sixth-generation grandson of Benjamin Franklin .