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MonkeyNotes-The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
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"BOLD and ARDUOUS PROJECT"

His "Bold and arduous project" is to obtain moral perfection. His intention is to avoid committing any kind of fault and to do only what he consciously thinks is right. He starts by avoiding the company of people who would lead him away from moral perfection and concentrates on avoiding wrongdoing. To his dismay, as he avoids one fault, he finds himself unknowingly committing another. Franklin quickly realizes that intention of being good and doing right does not make one virtuous. As a result, he contrives a method by which he intends to break all his bad habits and acquire good ones. He catalogues all the moral virtues, including them under different names. He winds up with thirteen virtues that he thinks are absolutely necessary. He lists each of them and attaches a brief idea which defines its limits:

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 without fail what you resolve. 5) Frugality -- Make no expense but to do good for 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 uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation.

11) Tranquillity -- Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12) Chastity -- Rarely use but for health or offspring--never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

13) Humility -- Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Franklin strives methodically to attain these thirteen virtues. He keeps a record in which he marks out the seven days of the week. For every virtue, he allows one day. He marks it in black if he fails to observe the virtue on its given day. In the same fashion, he makes a schedule of his day, planning about seven hours for sleep, eight hours for work, and the remaining hours for planning, reading, thinking, eating, writing, examining, and carrying on the daily routine.

Franklin proceeds with the zest to pursue his arduous project, but he soon realizes he is a man with no less faults than other men. However, his attempt to live the thirteen virtues helps him to improve himself. The virtues that give Franklin the most problems are Order and Humility. He always falls a little short of total organization, and he knows he is often proud of his accomplishments. When he tries to act humbly, he finds himself feeling proud of his humility.

Franklin intentionally does not mention any sect or religion on his list of virtues, for he feels that the list is universal and should be pursued by all humans.

Notes

Franklin sincerely feels that all his prosperity and his good reputation is due to his efforts to act in a virtuous manner. He has never regretted his attempt to attain moral perfection, even though he failed. He feels happy that he has endeavored to better himself and willingly acknowledges that he is only human and capable of error. He particularly notes that he has always struggled with being proud and orderly.

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