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Discuss Benjamin Franklin as a representative of the Enlightenment. How does his...

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hnewberry | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:45 PM via web

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Discuss Benjamin Franklin as a representative of the Enlightenment. How does his writing reveal the shift from a belief in Providence to faith in the individual?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted July 10, 2012 at 1:19 AM (Answer #1)

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Sometimes called the Age of Reason, the Enlightenment period, both in Europe and in the United States, was marked by a new interest in the potential of the human mind, and resonated with the ideas of Europeans John Locke and Jean Jacques-Rousseau, both of whom had a profound impact of many of America's Founding Fathers; these included Thomas Jefferson, who relied on Enlightenment ideals in penning the Declaration of Independence, and Ben Franklin, who is sometimes referred to as the First American among the Founding Fathers.  Franklin's interest in science, and less-than-rabid interest in religion identify him easily as a product of the Enlightenment.  He believed that religion and/or belief in a Deity were probably a positive things for a society, leading as it did to reflections on avoiding immoral behavior.  Later, Ameican transcendentalist writers would decry what they would say was an overemphasis on reason. 

Franklin also believed in the ability of individuals to improve their minds, and therefore their lives and communities, through the art of reading and study and to his credit established the first lending library, and contributed frequently to newspapers and almanacs.  His Age of Reason philosophies are also reflected in the list of thirteen virtues he identified at one point in his life as a foundation of self-improvement, as well as the time management system he developed, saying, "Dost thou love life?  Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of". 

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