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Essay On The Autobiography Of Benjamin Franklin

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Throughout The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Franklin uses his past and experiences as a model for the common man. He appears to be a man of morals and often speaks of important characteristics and virtues one should possess. For example, Franklin states that he “grew convinc’d that truth, sincerity, and integrity in dealings between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life” (Franklin 44). Franklin’s virtues seem like they are important to his morality, however, it sometimes appears that he abandons his morality or virtues, especially sincerity. This is a misreading as Franklin does not outright abandon morality. Instead, Franklin uses his virtues in a flexible and reasonable way to achieve his moral principle…show more content…
Therefore, if acting sincere causes harm or distress, then one should act insincerely. He also advises that people should think before they speak and if the words they are speaking are unkind, then they should not speak at all. While sincerity is important to him, it is no longer important if it will cause harm.
Franklin demonstrates that sometimes there are instances where it is better to be insincere for the greater good. For example, there is no question that Franklin is insincere to his former business partner, Meredith. Franklin and Meredith own a printing business, but Franklin wishes to dissolve the partnership as Meredith possesses no skill and often shows up to work drunk. Meredith brings money to the partnership, but Franklin brings expertise. Franklin eventually has two friends offer him money, so he can take the partnership upon himself. However, Franklin does not come right out and tell Meredith that he wishes to buy him out, instead, he uses reverse psychology. He expresses that maybe Meredith’s father, who gave Meredith the money for the business, is unsatisfied that the two are business partners. Franklin
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Steven Forde points out in his essay, “Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography and the Education of America,” that Franklin’s “own devotion [to virtue] as portrayed at points in the work has to be described as casual at best” (Forde 359). Franklin is casual regarding his virtues, specifically sincerity, because they are guidelines, not principles. He uses virtues to achieve his goals and occasionally needs to violate these virtues to do good. He explains that virtues are not important for their own sake, rather they are important as they are the tools or instruments that help people do good. Virtues usually help people do good, but when they do not help, people must violate them for the sake of the principle. Franklin would argue that virtues are not the core of morality, but, doing good is the core. Therefore, people must sometimes sacrifice their virtues if it is necessary to achieve morality. Franklin uses his guidelines in this flexible way because he is a reasonable and practical person. If Franklin strictly followed his guidelines all the time, it would be unproductive and inefficient. Franklin would have ruined his friendship with Meredith and the two would not be able to move on and do the work that each is skilled at. He places his goals and principles ahead of his guidelines and alters his guidelines to achieve these
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