While reading The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, I noticed not only the great things that Darwin accomplished, but his love for science that allowed him to be successful in his work. From Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, and the steps that he takes in order to attain moral perfection, we can see that he has a driving obsession with the scientific method. However, Franklin never goes as far to say that he outright loves science. Charles Darwin, in his autobiography, states “I love science.” Darwin identifying this emotional attachment to science shows a lot about his character. Charles Darwin does not just want to, or need to, understand science; he finds great pleasure and emotion in science — even in the sciences that he is not as fond of. This passion and emotion allows Darwin to go out and discover new and fascinating things. As a scientists, if you do not have passion and emotion for the work that you are doing, then you most likely do not like what you do. Not only do you not like what you are doing, you probably are not going out and making this scientific discoveries, but if you do go out and make these discoveries, without love for science, you will not perform as well as someone who has this love and passion for science. Benjamin Franklin enjoyed science but his passion for it, I believe, is not as strong as that of Charles Darwin. Darwin needs to do science, and finds great pleasure from it. He even goes on, in his autobiography, to say that as soon as he was done being ill he would jump right back up and start working on his discoveries. This just shows the kind of man Darwin was. His passion and love from science could not be slowed, or stopped, just because of him being ill. He fought through it just so that he may once again do the thing that he loves to do the most — science. It’s this passion and emotion that Darwin displays, that distinguishes the good scientists from the great ones. I believe that Charles Darwin was able to be a great scientist because of the passion and love of science that he has throughout his life.
While reading the first half of Charles Darwin’s autobiography, I learned quite a lot about his life and what his beliefs were; and how they compared to those of Benjamin Franklin. One of the first things that Darwin mentions is his enjoyment in learning and understanding things that not only interested him, but were complex and difficult for him as well. This made me think of Benjamin Franklin and how he was always curious about the world, and how he always was looking to understand new and interesting things. Another thing that was brought up constantly throughout the first half of Darwin’s autobiography, was Charles Darwin was very fond of reading; and that he sit and read for hours at a time. Darwin even goes on to say that he enjoyed reading and then going and disputing with other boys about the “veracity” — the truthfulness — of some of the statements that they read. Franklin was very similar in these aspects as well. Benjamin Franklin was an avid reader and love learning about the world and how things worked through literature. One of Franklin’s favorite things to do was get together with people and discuss the novels that they were reading. As a child, Franklin would argue with his friends because he enjoyed the arguments themselves, and as he got older Franklin — in his group, Junto — would get together with others and discuss and dispute points that were brought up in various books that they would read. Although Darwin and Franklin read slightly different things, and argued a bit differently, they both were people who enjoyed to read and took pleasure in learning about the world, and its’ truths, through literature.
A few other things that were brought up in Darwin’s autobiography that reminded me of Franklin were: Darwin keeping records of the birds that were shot while hunting, and his views on killing bird versus killing insects. Like Franklin, Darwin kept records — scientific data — that he believed would be not only helpful to himself but others as well. Darwin also brought up that he enjoyed hunting and that he believed that killing birds was fine, while when collecting insects he would not kill them, he would only take the dead ones. This is very different to Franklin’s beliefs and morals. Franklin believed that we should not kill animals; he even goes on to say that we should not kill them because they have done nothing wrong to us. Franklin did not believe in hunting, while Darwin enjoyed it and did it rather frequently. I find it interesting that many scientists seem to have some of the same beliefs and thoughts, but are mostly different in their ways.
When reading Aristotle’s Nicomacheean Ethics, I found it rather surprising how much the topics that were discussed are still relevant today. Most of the things brought up in Aristotle’s writing are very similar to the way that Benjamin Franklin lived his life, and to what Dr. Pennock addressed in the first chapter of his book. In his book, Aristotle talks about eudaimonia — which roughly translates to “happiness.” He states that a person who is eudaimon is not just enjoying life, but they are enjoying life by living successfully. Aristotle even goes on to contrast happiness with virtue — which he considers a state of being — and that having the right virtues allows a person to live well, while happiness is the activity of living well. I think that this is very much how Franklin viewed life, and what he believed happiness to be. Benjamin Franklin was obviously a very successful man, but in his autobiography he says that he is not successful because of only the things that he has accomplished, but because he has also lived a happy life. I believe that this is very similar to what Aristotle was saying when he talks about happiness is not just about enjoying life, but being successful in life as well. This is not to say that Franklin believed that his wealth was what made him happy; what is meant is that Franklin would probably agree that his happiness is partially because of his living a virtuous and well life. This is very similar to Aristotle who believed that a virtuous person was more inclined to head towards a happy lifestyle — which Franklin proves. Benjamin Franklin during his life, also, tried to achieve moral perfection, with the virtues he believed to be important. He talks about how virtues will allow him to live a happier and better life, which is what Aristotle is talking about in his book as well. It is amazing how the things that Aristotle believed, many years before Franklin’s birth, are so similar to what Franklin believed as well.
I found it interesting that while reading Pennock’s book, how many similarities and connections there were to The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. One of the main connections I found was when Pennock was talking about curiosity, and its’ importance in acquiring knowledge and “giving organisms a competitive advantage.” Benjamin Franklin was a very curious person, and he believed in finding things out for yourself. In Pennock’s writing, he talks about how curiosity and “moving of the standard path” give an organisms a competitive advantage. This was true for Franklin; since he was curious, he wanted to find out how and why things worked for himself, which ultimately allowed him to be successful in life — not only ending up happy but wealthy, and famous, as well. In later part of chapter 1, Pennock talks about how “…cultivating a life of excellence as equivalent to a life of virtue.” I believe this was exactly how Benjamin Franklin wanted to (and did) live his life. Franklin believed in attaining moral perfection and in having virtues, and he believed that in order to live a successful life, then people needed to accomplish these things. Lastly, Pennock states that people do not just get scientific virtues by “nature alone,” but a person must develop them themselves. This made me think of Franklin’s 13 virtues. Franklin came up with these virtues in order to obtain moral perfection in his life. In order to do this, he would practice and perfect these virtues, and he made he went about honing in on each virtue until he could perfect them to his liking. This relates back to what Pennock says: that curiosity and scientific virtues must be practiced and developed in order to make them “habitual” — which was exactly what Franklin was trying to accomplish. These connects made between Pennock’s writing and Benjamin Franklin’s, made me question whether most people tend to practice, and try to perfect their scientific virtues, or if they just believe that they will just get them from nature? I think that most of the scientific community — mainly scientists— need to be aware of the practicing and perfecting that needs to be done, in order to make these scientific virtues habitual and, in the long run, helpful.
In Franklin’s autobiography there is a section in the appendix called The Way of Wealth, that talks about how people should make the most out of life, and to not be a “sloth” — as stated in this section. It goes on to talk about how if you work hard in life than you will get a great reward, and that if you just lie around all day then you will not make it far. This is very similar to how Franklin lived his life and thought that people should live theirs. Franklin worked hard to go from the low social standing that he started with, to the high social standing that he ended up having. By working hard and making the most of everyday, Benjamin Franklin was able to do the many things that the set his mind too. When reading this part of the Appendix, I remembered how when Franklin was younger he did not wish to attend the religious meetings, because he felt that he could use that time to be more productive. Franklin was someone who did not wish to waste time, and he made sure to make the most out of everyday.
In The Whistle -- which is another part of the Appendix — Franklin talks about how by buying an expensive whistle, as a child, he learned to only buy what was necessary. All throughout Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, we see Franklin being conscious about what he is spending money on, because he believes that you do not necessarily need expensive items to be happy. This part of the Appendix also made me think of the things that Franklin believed were necessary to achieve in order to attain moral perfection. One of the things that Franklin believes is necessary to have this moral perfection is temperance. With temperance, Franklin states that you do not need much to be happy — you do not need a lot of food or drink. This is very similar to the whistle story that Franklin talks about, you do not need to be rich or wealthy, or necessarily eat or drink much, in order to achieve temperance and be both moral and happy in life.
My first reaction when reading about how Benjamin Franklin was going to obtain moral perfection, was that it was very interesting how a man of little schooling was able to think about what he wanted to achieve in life on a moral level. Franklin was even able to come up with a plan for himself, and he came up with, what he believed to be, the top 13 virtues necessary or desirable to improve ones virtue. This made me think about how many people in today’s society do not tend to think like Franklin did. Most people do not try to improve there virtues and attain the perfect morals, but Franklin strived to do just that. It is quite amazing how a man who start with little social standing, achieved what he did, and that he was able to think and strive to be a better person; even at such a young age.
I found it very interesting to learn that Benjamin Franklin had a more non-religion aspect to life and was very skeptical toward religions due to his readings. I think it is interesting that during a time where religion was a large part of most peoples lives, Franklin chose not to conform to that religion. He even chose to do so opening. I believe that during this time in Franklin’s life it must have been difficult to stray from the norm, especially when coming from a large and religious family. However, later in his life, Franklin formed the group Junto. This group practiced Deism, and the members of this group got together to discuss truth, serenity, and integrity. I found this to be interesting as well, since Benjamin Franklin decide to take it among himself to form this group even though it was uncommon during this time period.
Another thing I found interesting, was that Benjamin Franklin decided to eat an all vegetable diet. During this time, meat was normal for families to eat, however, Franklin decided to once again stray from what others were doing. Although this seemed difficult to do, Franklin continued to eat his all vegetable diet for some part of his life. He even stated, at one point in his autobiography, that he was able to keep up with his all vegetable diet because he was determined. Benjamin Franklin was also a feminist. He believed that men and women should have the same rights, and he even went against most in saying that women should be able to learn just as men do. I think this shows just what kind of man Benjamin Franklin was, and it shows what moral and ethical standpoints were.