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//Yin & Yang

Yin & Yang

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In his famous Autobiography, Ben Franklin proffers the following 13 virtues as ‘necessary or desirable:’

Industry Justice
Frugality Moderation
Order Cleanliness
Resolution Tranquility
Temperance Chastity
Silence Humility
Sincerity

He does not explicitly tell us ‘necessary or desirable’ toward what end, but it is apparent from context he means ‘necessary or desirable’ toward achieving material success. Indeed, what is the aim of Industry and Frugality, either alone or in concert, if not to maintain a full larder?

If Franklin had, in his time, been a little more in touch with his yin self relative to his yang self, he might have noticed a need for a second set of virtues, to complement the first set. Indeed, whereas Ben’s virtues collectively stand in service to one’s own interests (are inward-focused), the missing virtues would collectively stand in service to one’s neighbor’s interests (be outward-focused). These complementing virtues might aptly be called the 13 relational virtues, and might include the following or the like:

Compassion Forbearance
Empathy Nurturance
Forgiveness Fairness
Sacrifice Loyalty
Reverence Tolerance
Generosity Trust
Contrition

Question: What if Franklin had mentioned the latter virtues in his Autobiography? What if he had given them equal weight relative to his 13 inward-focused virtues? How might the world have turned out differently?

2018-11-18T18:01:05+00:00November 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Josh November 19, 2018 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    The question as to whether we truly live in a morally degenerate age is an interesting one and one that seems popular in every age. One of the many ways in which humanity is an awkward product of evolution is that we have the full suite of red-in-tooth-and-claw selfish instincts, but are also profoundly social creatures and have this capacity for concern for others. It seems like the balance of these two broad categories of our nature has always been a difficult one; greed, selfishness, and a lack of empathy have plagued us forever. In America, at least, our culture does seem to place an unhealthy emphasis on self, and it would seem we need to recover a healthier balance as you suggest. But overall, I suspect humanity is going to continue to struggle with our “Me” and “We” nature.

  2. Barry Cook November 19, 2018 at 12:17 am - Reply

    Thank goodness Ben didn’t go all out for Silence. Great point about the social virtues. So much more constructive than today’s me-generation virtues amplified and weaponized by social media.
    You have offered a great start for New Year’s Resolutions. Do Unto Others because it makes their world better. We

  3. Matt Fitzgerald November 18, 2018 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    It’s not too late! The world can still turn out differently if enough people are exposed to Ben’s posthumous change of heart as depicted in “Poor Richard’s Lament”!

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