Franklin: Puritan or Enlightenment? Essay examples

Franklin: Puritan or Enlightenment? Essay examples

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Is Franklin a Puritan or Enlightenment Thinker

About Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin came from a very simple Calvinist background. Ha dad little formal education, but he made it through his own efforts and became a rare genius in human history. Everything seems to meet in this one man, mind and will, talent and art, strength and ease, wit and grace and he became almost everything: a printer, essayist, scientist, statesman, philosopher, political economist, ambassador, etc.-¡°Jack of all trades¡±.

Enlightenment in America

Toward the latter part of the 17th century, a complete new view of the universe came into being. With the publication of Newton¡¯s ¡°Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica¡± in which his laws of motion and the idea of universal gravitation were embodied, the universal became something mechanical, like a clock instead of to the close supervision of God, to certain physical and mechanical laws. This gave rise to a predominant idea and philosophy-enlightenment. This set of idea and philosophy carried itself the characteristic of deism, belief in human reason and pursuit of happiness.

1. Deism

The deist thought God is indeed the creator of the universe, ¡°the maker of the clock¡± but he has left it t operate according to natural law. Thus the best way to worship God is to study his handiwork, namely, the natural world and the human world, and to do good things to mankind. Voltaire and Rousseau in France and Alexander Pope and Daniel Defoe in England were all great voice of the new concept of the universe which was radically different from the domineering Christian position of original sin and predestination.

2. Bel...

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...enlightenment thinker. He carried with himself both the puritan ideas and the enlightenment ideas. He was brought up in the puritan background and was influenced by Puritanism from his early age, but he became a leader of the enlightenment thoughts and helped bring America into an enlightenment age. Although he placed particularly emphasis on the puritan values of frugality, temperance and industry, the means and ends of these virtues, of course, were quite un-puritan. Likewise, not holiness but human happiness-defined primarily as a condition of independence, self-control, and the power to promote the public welfare-appears as a perfectly sufficient goal. We can say that Benjamin Franklin is an enlightenment thinker with puritan characteristic.


Sun Youzhong, American Intellectual History, Beijing Foreign Studies UNiversity

Franklin, Autobiography

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