Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Virtues

On the advice of someone I greatly respect, I just finished reading Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. It’s a short but fascinating book which I should have read years ago, On the negative side, Franklin must have been the nation’s first self-promoter and he controlled  the media of his time. He was also a racist and something of a misogynist. On the other hand, his clarity of vision, industry and self-motivation are as compelling today as they were nearly three centuries ago. 
I was struck by the fact that Franklin conceived of “The Virtues” as a kind of blueprint for living a good life. He carefully perfected and studied this list and then tried to work on one of the items every day. In that sense, besides his other inventions, Franklin probably created the self-improvement book genre. He was the Tony Robbins of the eighteenth century. Nonetheless, I found this list rewarding and I thought that it might be an interesting exercise to reproduce it here. Thus, here are Benjamin Franklin’s virtues:


            1.         Temperance

            Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

            2.         Silence

            Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

            3.         Order

            Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

            4.         Resolution

            Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

            5.         Frugality

            Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

            6.         Industry

            Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

            7.         Sincerity

            Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

            8.         Justice

            Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

            9.         Moderation

            Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

            10.      Cleanliness

            Tolerate no uncleanliness in bodies, clothes or habitation.

            11.      Tranquility

            Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

            12.      Chastity

            Rarely use venery[1]but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness or injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

            13.      Humility

            Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

[1]I had to look this one up.

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