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American Philosophy before Pragmatism$
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Russell B. Goodman

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199577545

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577545.001.0001

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Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

(p.48) 2 Benjamin Franklin
American Philosophy before Pragmatism

Russell B. Goodman

Oxford University Press

For Franklin, as for many other deists, God exists somewhere, but his glory or “excellency” (to use Edwards’s word) is not to be found among the Cartesian vortices or Newtonian masses that compose the physical world. We can serve God best, Franklin holds, by serving man, contributing to God’s great plan for increasing human happiness. It is in this spirit that Franklin’s alter ego Poor Richard Saunders writes: “Serving God is Doing Good to Man, but Praying is thought an easier Service, and therefore more generally chosen.” Franklin established his reputation in Europe as a theorist of electricity, but his practical inventions of the lightning rod and the Pennsylvania stove, participation in writing the “Declaration of Independence” and the U.S. Constitution, crafting of an ethic of industry, frugality, health, and wisdom, and his late opposition to slavery exemplify the human orientation of which Poor Richard speaks.

Keywords:   happiness, deist, electricity, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, ethic, slavery

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