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

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Like John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton, also frequently associated with the Enlightenment period, Ben Franklin was interested in both the philosophies of living life (like Locke) and the science of human living (like Newton).  Like Newton, Franklin came to believe that man's ability to manuever and analyze the forces of the universe, gave each individual unique power and responsibility for running his or her own life.  Locke's work echoed these ideas when he argued that human beings were essentially blank slates upon which knowledge develops as the individual experiences the world.  Franklin embraced both of these ideas, as well as proclaiming himself a "Deist", meaning one who believed that the Creator of the universe did just that--and nothing else, leaving human beings to their own devices, free to make choices and mistakes and generally orchestrate their journey through life.  Franklin, however, brought a practical spin to his ideas, creating an almanac that dispensed advice and brought attention to the flaws and foibles of humanity, gently reminding individuals that personal and self-improvement lay within his or her grasp, if only he or she was willing to discipline him or herself into being a better person.  In fact, Franklin himself spent one year working on personal virtues, one at a time, in a quest for self-improvement.  His datebook or personal planning notebook, where he recorded these types of activities was the inspiration for the Franklin Covey (formerly known as Franklin Quest) day planning systems.  The cover page of every Franklin Covey paper refill features a sketch of Franklin's profile and a quote by Franklin about the value of effectively using one's time:  "Dost thou love life?  Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." 

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