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Franklin: Puritan Or Enlightenment? Essay

1075 words - 4 pages

Is Franklin a Puritan or Enlightenment Thinker

About Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin came from a very simple Calvinist background. Ha dad little formal education, but he made it through his own efforts and became a rare genius in human history. Everything seems to meet in this one man, mind and will, talent and art, strength and ease, wit and grace and he became almost everything: a printer, essayist, scientist, statesman, philosopher, political economist, ambassador, etc.-¡°Jack of all trades¡±.

Enlightenment in America

Toward the latter part of the 17th century, a complete new view of the universe came into being. With the publication of Newton¡¯s ¡°Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica¡± in which his laws of motion and the idea of universal gravitation were embodied, the universal became something mechanical, like a clock instead of to the close supervision of God, to certain physical and mechanical laws. This gave rise to a predominant idea and philosophy-enlightenment. This set of idea and philosophy carried itself the characteristic of deism, belief in human reason and pursuit of happiness.

1. Deism

The deist thought God is indeed the creator of the universe, ¡°the maker of the clock¡± but he has left it t operate according to natural law. Thus the best way to worship God is to study his handiwork, namely, the natural world and the human world, and to do good things to mankind. Voltaire and Rousseau in France and Alexander Pope and Daniel Defoe in England were all great voice of the new concept of the universe which was radically different from the domineering Christian position of original sin and predestination.

2. Belief in Reason

In this period, reason is turned to by questioning, not accepting everything without reason. They thought that religious truth also should be tested by reason. This was a great challenge to the former thoughts. Man¡¯s reason and the idea of order became the watchword of the day. Everything fell into some order, like Newton¡¯s ¡°clock¡± and all had a place in the divine plan.

3. Pursuit of Happiness

People with enlightenment thinking turned to pursue the happiness of the present world rather than the salvation in the after world. They showed more interest in the practical subjects in the real world. They thought that the ultimate objective of man¡¯s life is the life, liberty and pursuit of life. This kind of thought stimulated an activist individualism which advocated that one should be responsible of his own choice and attempt unalienable Rights.

All these ideas were very much in the air in America and no one represented them better than Benjamin Franklin. With Benjamin Franklin as its spokesman, eighteen-century America experienced an age if enlightenment, of reason and order like England and Europe.

Puritan Heritage


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