In remembrance of one of my favorite thinkers of the American Enlightenment, Ben Franklin, I wanted to share with everyone his 13 virtues as outlined in his autobiography. Many will already be familiar with these, and my memory is quite fuzzy on whether or not I've already written on them. If I have talked about his virtues before, then I am at least comforted by knowing that they are so good that they are worth sharing again. As I understand it, and as wikipedia reminds me, Franklin came up with these virtues when he was only 20, which I find incredibly impressive.
Anyway, the virtues are:
- "Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."
- "Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."
- "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; i.e., waste nothing."
- "Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions."
- "Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly."
- "Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."
- "Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve."
- "Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation."
- "Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."
- "Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation."
- "Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates."
What is more impressive to me than the list itself is that Franklin thought to do it in the first place. It speaks to his own desire to be the best version of himself that he could be. He openly admitted that he fell short many times, and never lived any of the virtues to perfection, but that having them in mind as he lived his life made him a better person overall. For someone like me, who wants to be so much better than I am, his endeavor is inspiring and worth emulating. But not emulation in the sense of adopting his virtues for myself. That would change them into something they were not meant to be, more like commandments or laws, to be obeyed blindly. Rather, I wish to emulate his sense of self improvement and his desire to define for himself what makes a virtuous life. So, in the spirit of Franklin's virtues, I plan to define for myself what it means to live virtuously and then do my best to live in that way.