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Ben Franklin

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The Quest for Moral Perfection Benjamin Franklin is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in American history. The numerous advancements contributed by Franklin were made possible by a lot of work on his part. His outlook is best represented by his famous quote, "Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." Franklin did not sway from that philosophy, and spent little time at leisure, as it was not productive. Franklin's work ethic, moral outlook, and constant interest in self-improvement throughout his life are his biggest claims to fame. Franklin's strict adherence to his thirteen virtues-which he created in his pursuit of moral perfection-is responsible for many of his countless contributions to the colonies. Very important to Franklin's life, was the little book he carried on his person at all times. In this book, he charted on a day to day basis, which virtues he had not obeyed, and marked a check for each mistake. Franklin set aside one week per virtue, and ordered his virtues such that whenever perfection in a virtue was attained, it would make achieving the following virtue easier. Franklin found that he had much to improve upon. Another ingredient to Franklin's recipe for greatness was his daily schedule. Franklin divided his day up by the hour and knew what he was to be doing at all times. This he found difficult at times, and involving the virtue Order, at one time he almost gave up. In one of Franklin's few pessimistic moments, he is quoted as saying, "This article (order) therefore cost me so much painful attention, and my faults in it vexed me so much...that I was almost ready to give up the attempt and content myself with a faulty character in that respect." An amusing anecdote about a man who concludes that "a speckled axe is best" follows, and in looking back on his life, Franklin demonstrates his mastery of the thirteenth virtue, Humility. Even before he set his thirteen virtues to writing, Franklin could be seen demonstrating many of them. In one instance involving his friend Collins, Franklin demonstrates Resolution, Justice, and Sincerity. During a voyage, Collins refuses to row, and Franklin resolves to perform what he must. An argument ensued, and Franklin, knowing that Collins was a good swimmer, decided the only course of action would be to throw him overboard. He was in a clear state of mind the whole time, and did absolutely nothing that he would regret later on. Temperance was also a virtue that Franklin had practiced his entire life. He was never a heavy drinker, and always ate in moderation. Franklin prided himself on being an excellent debater, and while creating his virtues, he added Silence as a guide to others explaining one reason he was such an excellent crafter of argument. "2. Silence- Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation." Franklin means for others not to get caught up in petty squabbles, but rather to speak only to that which is important, and when doing so, only to benefit the other party. When you mix the Silence virtue with the Sincerity virtue, which Franklin is quoted as meaning "Use no harmful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly." you will become well respected, and a very powerful arguer. Franklin himself was both, and through trials, tribulations, and experience, sets forth these very useful tools of debate. The two virtues that Franklin was exceptionally good at were Industry and Frugality. "6. Industry- Lose



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