Essay on Franklin due Friday, November 1st at 3:30 p.m.: (choose one of two)

1. Discuss how Franklin’s Autobiography articulates for us an enduring expression of the American Dream.  In your thesis statement take care to define the dream in its broadest terms. The Autobiography is not simply a ‘rags to riches’ story. It expresses a whole philosophy of optimistic individualism. Franklin suggests that we can seize control of our lives and achieve independence. The world itself can be changed for the better by our individual actions.

In your essay be sure to discuss the following points:
  • How is the American society Franklin depicts different from the old feudal, aristocratic, and religious world of the past?
  • What are the means by which we can invent ourselves and our lives?
  • How can the individual affect the larger society?

2. Analyze the pros and cons of Franklin’s utilitarian understanding of morality. 

  • How was Franklin’s science of virtue a logical application of Locke’s educational theories? 
  • Describe how Franklin believed he could use behavior modification to create happy citizens within an ideal society. 
  • How was this approach to virtue different from the Church’s traditional teaching? How else would Franklin have faulted conventional religion?
  • Franklin believed his approach to social engineering would work because it appealed to the self-interest of individuals. Is self-interest the most powerful motivation driving human behavior? If not, what is?