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In this excerpt from Autobiography, do you find that Franklin's argument - one's...

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magnotta | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted June 3, 2012 at 8:28 PM via web

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In this excerpt from Autobiography, do you find that Franklin's argument - one's propensity to justify his baser impulses through reason - is valid?

"I believe I have omitted mentioning that in my first voyage from Boston, being becalmed off Block Island, our people set about catching cod and hauled up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food; and on this occasion I considered with my Master Tryon, the taking of every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and when this came hot out of the frying pan, it smelled admirably well. I balanced some time between principle and inclination: till I recollected, that when fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs: Then, thought I, if you eat one another, I don't see why we mayn't eat you. So I dined upon cod very heartily and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and them occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do."

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted June 6, 2012 at 6:07 PM (Answer #1)

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Ben Franklin had a sense of humor, and it was not unusual for him to comment on his observations in a tongue-in-cheek sort of manner. In discussing the positive aspects of spending romantic time with older women, Franklin once several reasons, ending with this, that "They are so grateful."  The story about the fish demonstrates Franklin's understanding of human nature, and his ability to recognize when he is rationalizing something he wants to do but has said he would not. I suspect that Franklin would be amused by the compulsive spender standing in a store explaining to anyone who will listen why he or she needs, not wants, but needs the item he or she is getting ready to put on the Visa card.  Franklin was a master of observing human nature, as recorded in his many quotes, comments and essays.  Although he was willing to laugh at himself, he did take self-improvement very seriously, one year creating a list of virtue that he would practice week by week.  The original Franklin Quest day planner system, which is now part of the Franklin Covey company, is based on Ben Franklin's self-improvement notebooks and refers to the virtues he identified and practiced. 

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