Franklin, Bennett Virtues Good Reading

I just recently had a good conversation with the former secretary of education, William J. Bennett. I also had a conversation with Benjamin Franklin (the famous printer, scientist, banker, inventor, merchant, soldier, patriot, philosopher and statesman). Of course, these conversations were one-way and in writing, but that's how I think of it when I'm reading the writings of people I admire.

I think it's important at this time in American history to look at the virtues each of these men believed were so important for all of us to be practicing or striving to practice. The thirteen virtues, and the descriptions of each, which Mr. Franklin talked to me about were:

"1) Temperance - Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation;

2) Silence - Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation;

3) Order - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time;

4) Resolution - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve;

5) Frugality - Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing;

6) Industry - Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions;

7) Sincerity - Use no harmful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly;

8) Justice - Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty;

9) Moderation - Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve;

10) Cleanliness - Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation:

11) Tranquillity - Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable;

12) Chastity - Rarely use venery (sexual intercourse) but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation;

13) Humility - Imitate Jesus and Socrates."

Mr. Bennett, in his current best-seller book, titled "The Book of Virtues", has ten chapters of collected writings, stories, and poems from many sources on the following ten virtues: 1) Self-Discipline; 2) Compassion; 3) Responsibility; 4) Friendship; 5) Work; 6) Courage, 7) Perseverance; 8) Honesty; 9) Loyalty; and 10) Faith.

The current talk in academic circles (public conversations between people of high intellect) is about the subject of IQs (intelligence quotient scores - 100 being average, under 75 being mentally challenged, and over 125 being highly gifted).

A book titled "The Bell Curve" which is about "intelligence and class structure in American life" is being praised and criticized from people from all positions on the political spectrum. The authors, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein (Mr. Herrnstein died shortly after writing the book), focus on low intelligence as a main element explaining social problems in all cultures.

Although I hope to get around to reading "The Bell Curve" in the near future, I would like to make a comment about the current conversations in philosophical circles about "virtues" versus the current conversations in academic circles about "IQ". Since I consider my own position on the IQ bell curve at no more than average, some readers may not place a whole lot of weight to my opinion on this matter. However, I feel compelled to express it.

I would rather live next door to a young lady or young man with a higher VQ ("Virtue Quotient") than IQ! Although I struggle to read and understand things written by high IQ men and women, I admire and am more influenced by those who are on the high end of the VQ bell curve.

I'm sorry I don't have the IQ to express my opinion on this matter with my own words rather than having to quote and refer to Mr. Franklin and Mr. Bennett. But I think that conversations about virtue are much needed today in America and there are bell curves of more importance to societies than the intelligence bell curve. That is my own humble opinion.

--Kenneth J. Wolf #40 (01/14/95)

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