Age of Reason – Rationalist World
• People arrive at truth by using reason
rather than by relying on authority of the
past, on religion, or on nonrational mental
processes like intuition
• God created the universe but does not
interfere in its workings.
• People are basically good and perfectible
• Since God wants us to be happy, they
worship God best by helping other people.
Ben Franklin: Personal Background
• Lived to be 84 years old
• Came from a large family – 17 children, Lived in a tiny house with 10
• Valued industry and being frugal and believed that if one embraced both
those qualities, wealth and virtue would follow
• Was supposed to study for the ministry and ultimately attend Harvard.
Was top student in his class.
• Was pulled out of school at the age of ten and went to work full time, first
for his father and then as an apprentice to his brother James, who was a
printer. Was required to sign a nine year contract – basically would be an
indentured servant to his brother until his was 21.
• Ran away at 17 – his cover story to get passage on a ship was that he
“had an intrigue with a girl of a bad character.”
• Books were the most important informative influence in his life – loved
ones that dealt with a journey – both spiritual and literal!!! Like the books
that dealt with the premise that individual endeavor can change the
course of history for the better.
Benjamin Franklin: Areas of Influence
• Literary world – writer, printer, publisher, the first rags to riches story –
His autobiography, and Poor Richard’s Almanac, used the pen name
“Silence Dogood” – pretending to be a prudish, widowed women from a
rural area – the essays he wrote under this alias were the first examples of
the American genre of humor/satire
• Entrepreneur – created the lending library, the volunteer fire corps,
insurance association, founded the University of Pennsylvania
• Scientist – lightning is electricity, proof that the common cold is
• Inventor – bifocal glasses, clean burning stoves, charts of the Gulf
Stream, flippers, the most interesting thing that he invented and
continually reinvented was HIMSELF.
• Politician/Negotiator – plans for uniting the colonies and creating a
federal model for a national government, vision for America – a national
identity based on the virtues and value of is middle class, lived in London
and lobbied for the colonists, helped draft The Declaration of
Independence, diplomat to France, spokesman for the British colonies
From The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
• Character flaws, why he left Boston at 17
• Incident on the voyage between New York and
Perth Amboy : John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
– the concept that individuals, and humanity in
general, move forward and improve based on a
steady increase of knowledge and the wisdom
that comes from conquering adversity
• Forms of transportation used to get to
Philadelphia? Significance? What does it tell us
about his character?
“I was dirty from my journey; my
pockets were stuffed out with
shirts and stockings; and I knew
no soul nor where to look for
lodging. I was fatigued with
traveling, rowing, and want of rest,
I was very hungry”
• Why do you think this description (which is
quite famous) appeals to people?
Quest for Perfection
• Franklin believes attaining
perfection was possible – how
does one achieve it?
• What do we learn about Ben
Franklin (specifically how his mind
works) when analyzing his quest
Temperance – eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
Silence – speak not but what may benefit others or yourself
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; waste nothing
Industry – lose no time; always be employed in something useful
Sincerity – use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly
Justice – wrong none by injustice
Moderation – avoid extremes
Cleanliness -tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation
Tranquility – be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
Chastity – Rarely use sex but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or to the
injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
Humility – imitate Jesus and Socrates
A short, pithy statement of
a generally accepted truth
He that lieth down with
dogs shall rise up with
Glass, china, and reputation are
easily cracked and never well
Fish and visitors smell in three days.
If a man could have half his wishes, he
would double his troubles.
Love Your Neighbor; yet don’t pull down
A small leak will sink
a great ship.
He that composes
himself is wiser than he
that composes books.
Keep your eyes wide open before
marriage, half shut afterward.