Benjamin Franklin

BENJAMIN was born on January 17, 1706, the youngest son among seventeen children of Josiah Franklin, a Boston candlemaker. Long before his two years of education in the grammar school-and that was all the formal education he ever had-the boy learned to read and write, probably with some assistance. At ten he was put to work in his father's shop, but he never could make himself like dipping candles and cutting wicks all day long. In the end, feeling that the only thing his son ever really liked came from books, old Josiah consented to send the boy to his grownup son, James, to be an apprentice at the art of printing. But the older brother apparently was not aware of his baby-brother's talents -- and never came to recognize them, as he died prematurely in 1735 -- and treated Benjamin as one of his workers. Soon afterward, James started a newspaper, the New England Courant ( 1721) which published, among other material, fourteen articles signed by an unknown widow by the name of Silence Dogood, articles which turned out to be secretly written by young Benjamin. This incident proved to be quite irritating to James.

As a result of the quarrel, young Franklin ran away and came to live in Philadelphia ( 1723), where he eventually opened a printing shop of his own. There he printed all kinds of things: leaflets, pamphlets and books. In 1729 he took over the publication of the Pennsylvania Gazette. And three years later he embarked upon a new venture, a calendar with witty and sound sayings, just the kind of practical wisdom which appealed to the colonists; this calendar known as Poor Richard's Almanack quickly became a literary and business success and continued appearing until 1757.

All along Franklin kept himself busy studying and learning. He read a great deal, including the works of Xenophon, Plutarch, Shaftesbury, and Locke. He mastered four languages, at least for the purposes of reading, namely French, Spanish, Italian, and Latin. For self-guidance, he wrote "articles of belief," dealing with the practical meaning of religion and morality, and found that good will may be described in terms of thirteen virtues, among them temperance, moderation, chastity, humility, fru-

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American Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • List of Contributors ix
  • Introduction - Orientation of Thought xi
  • Suggested Readings xviii
  • Part I - Fields and Problems of American Philosophy 1
  • The Philosophy of Science: The Problem of Factual Truth 3
  • Suggested Readings 19
  • Axiology: the Problem Of Human Values 21
  • Suggested Readings 33
  • Aesthetics: the Problem of Art And Beauty 34
  • Suggested Readings 47
  • Ethics: the Problem of Morality 49
  • Suggested Readings 63
  • Semantics: the Problem Of Meaning 64
  • Suggested Readings 82
  • Logic: the Problem of Reasoning 84
  • Suggested Readings 97
  • Metaphysics: the Problems Of Knowledge and Existence 98
  • Suggested Readings 113
  • Philosophy of Religion: The Problem of Faith 114
  • Suggested Readings 127
  • Part II - Sources and Choices of Philosophy 129
  • Transcendentalism 131
  • Suggested Readings 137
  • Idealism 138
  • Suggested Readings 146
  • Thomism 147
  • Suggested Readings 154
  • Personalism 155
  • Suggested Readings 161
  • Pragmatism 162
  • Suggested Readings 171
  • Humanism 172
  • Suggested Readings 182
  • Logical Positivism 183
  • Suggested Readings 191
  • Realism 193
  • Suggested Readings 202
  • Naturalism 203
  • Suggested Readings 210
  • Oriental Philosophy in America 211
  • Part III - American Thinkers 221
  • American Thought: A Chart 223
  • William Penn 227
  • Samuel Johnson 230
  • Jonathan Edwards 233
  • Benjamin Franklin 235
  • Thomas Paine 238
  • Thomas Jefferson 241
  • Benjamin Rush 244
  • William Ellery Channing 247
  • John Caldwell Calhoun 250
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson 253
  • Abraham Lincoln 256
  • Henry David Thoreau 259
  • Walt Whitman 262
  • Robert Green Ingersoll 265
  • Charles Sanders Peirce 268
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 271
  • John Fiske 274
  • William James 277
  • Ambrose Bierce 280
  • Borden Parker Bowne 283
  • Josiah Royce 285
  • John Dewey 288
  • George Santayana 291
  • Morris Raphael Cohen 294
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt 297
  • Suggested Readings 300
  • Conclusion 303
  • Index 311
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