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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Reading Ben Franklin's Autobiography (Para's 1 - 150)

Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin


Franklin planned what would later become the University of Pennsylvania - where I will begin my 'official' graduate education in a few short months

Para. 3

Franklin discusses the difference between vanity and pride (justifiable and reasonable) and notes that pride is necessary for happiness

Para. 6

"was bred a smith"
It is interesting to note the words that were used to describe how people were trained for a profession. Although the wording does not suggest it (in modern usage) his uncle, whose training was being discussed, later becomes a scrivener, or scribe. Franklin also speaks of similarities in personality and temperament between himself and this uncle, who died 4 years to a day before Franklin was born. Franklin suggests that, had the uncle died 4 years later "trasmigration" would have been suggested. I find this interesting when contrasted with the beliefs of most contemporary Christians in relation to reincarnation and the historical fears of witchcraft during Franklin's life. (Note to self: Consider the implication of "transmigration" on the abortion debate - how would it affect the pro-choice argument of 'killing a soul'.)

Para. 9

From the brief sketches given of his family to this point (and the description of his father that follows) it seems that most of the Franklin family was well educated and well written for many generations before Benjamin

Para. 12

After relating a humorous episode in his youth, Franklin relates his father's lesson, "nothing [is] useful which is not honest".

Para. 14

Franklin relates several anecdotes about his father, including one where he describes his father always choosing friends and conversation that would be edifying to his children, especially during dinnertime conversations. A result of this practice, Franklin suggests, is his lifelong preference for mental stimulation as opposed to being a gourmet. This strikes me as one possible cause for the obesity epidemic among Americans. Family dinners used to be treasured for conversation and companionship, not for the physical fulfillment from sugar and fat. Robbed of mental and emotional fulfillment, American seek to fill that void with rich foods. I'm aware that the dwindling of the family dinner has previously been cited as a cause for the obesity epidemic, but the reason I've heard has more to do with the increase of dining out and thus the increased consumption of rich foods.

Para. 17

Franklin describes the usefulness of being familiar with many diverse trades. This is also touched upon in further paragraphs, and Franklin considers 'well-rounded-ness' as praiseworthy trait in his friends and acquaintances.

Para. 21

Franklin advises against developing a combative conversationalist, in blog-speak, against being a troll.

Para. 23

Franklin describes how he used poetry writing and copywork as methods to increase his vocabulary and to improve his writing style a la Charlotte Mason

Para. 24

Franklin discusses the start of his periods of vegetarianism and discusses frugality and time management. He switches to a different landlord (at the time landlord usually provided their tenants with meals as well) and uses his new found time and eating habits to increase his studies.

Para. 25

Franklin studies philosophy and discusses his decision to refrain from using positive phrases like never, certainty, and undoubtedly. He also discusses his reasons for this decision.

As the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or persuade, I wish well-meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good be a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat every one of those purpose for which speech was given to us.

Para. 27

One of Franklin's contemporaries remarks that one newspaper is enough for America. Franklin also gives examples of how his education gained him the respect of powerful men even before he was an adult. The value of an educated mind is continually apparent as Franklin continues to relate his experiences

Para. 65

"So convenient to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do."

Para. 73

Franklin recounts how he made a pact with a friend that the first one to die would visit the other to appraise of the outcome. His friend never fulfilled the promise.

Para. 88

Franklin recounts some of his experiences in London, including contrasting his frugal and teetotaling habits with those of his fellow workers who drink at every meal. The small amount of money they spend everyday on beer prevents them both from excelling at their jobs and from saving up any money. Essentially it is a description of an eighteenth century Latte Factor.

Para. 100

Franklin discusses the marriage and (effective) divorce of his future wife. I find this very interesting as it contrasts greatly with the contemporary view of divorce prior to the 1950's.

Para. 113

"I grew convince that truth, sincerity , and integrity in dealings between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life."

Para. 116

Franklin discusses the founding of Junto, a club for mutual improvement.

Para. 123

Franklin explains the value of industry. This is another recurring theme in his Autobiography.

Para. 138

Franklin explains how he was able to get a lucrative business contract due to his continued efforts to improve his mind and his writing.

All emphases are original to the text. The rest of the notes and a review to come.

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