What is perfection? How do we go about achieving it? Is it truly attainable? In our lifetime, there are things that we all strive to be good or perfect at: school, our jobs, relationships, sports…There is something in all of our lives that we wish we were better at. There are things we may try to do to make those things better: study more, put in extra hours at the job, see a counselor, or practice harder. In Benjamin Franklin’s essay ” Arriving at Perfection” he sets out to devise a plan of self-examination, resulting in self-correction.
Trying to achieve moral perfection, he creates a chart listing thirteen names of virtues and their precepts as a guideline for his self-examination (Franklin, 135). He HThough I believe Franklin’s intentions were of good gesture, the plan he devised was flawed due to basic human nature, lack of emotion, and different interpretations of what perfection is. As humans, it is sometimes in our nature to make mistakes. Sometimes we are influenced in our decision-making by who we are as a person, our individuality or/and outside forces. I work as a 911 dispatcher here in Valdosta, Georgia.
We are taught that there is no room for error. One wrong decision could cost someone their lives. However, there are days when I just feel extremely tired at work or maybe even annoyed. I might be dealing with some stressful situations that may cause me to be a little distracted at work. I am trained to answer incoming phone calls a Bristow 2 certain way, ask certain imperative questions, and to always be courteous. I might receive a call from someone who is very upset about something and therefore takes their frustration out on me.
They may use profanity towards me or even hang up the phone because I am asking too many questions. I have had that situation happen to me several times and I become upset. I could have empathized with the caller and tried harder to calm them down. Instead, after hanging up the phone, I may call that person inconsiderate or have other choice words. The next caller may be someone who is in a more serious situation such as their house is on fire or they were just involved in a very serious car accident.
Because I am distracted from the previous caller, I may forget to ask an imperative question like, “ What intersection are you near? ” In forgetting to ask this question, first responders may be sent to an incorrect location or may have difficulty finding the caller, and therefore, slow down the response time it may take to get that person help. In that scenario, I have already broken several of Franklin’s virtues: silence, resolution, sincerity, justice, and tranquility (134).
I have broken the virtue of silence because I have spoken something out of anger; it was not beneficial to me or anyone else. I have broken the virtue of resolution because I failed to resolve the conflict between me and the first caller, though I understood that their frustration was not really with me. I have broken the virtue of sincerity because I did not have innocent or just feelings towards the first caller who had upset me. I have broken the virtue of justice because I have caused injury to the second caller because I had not fulfilled all of my duties.
I was distracted and caused increased danger or harm to someone else. I have broken the virtue of tranquility because I allowed myself to become upset in the first place, instead of remaining calm and handling the situation in a different manner. Bristow 3 Franklin’s plan also lacked consideration of emotion. We are not robots. We have feelings and thoughts, and sometimes are governed by those emotions or thoughts. As a dispatcher, I work twelve hour shifts. We also work rotating shifts, switching from nights to days or days to nights, every twenty-eight days.
My schedule makes it very hectic to sometimes adapt to a certain sleep schedule. It can also make me very moody and unpleasant to be around. I am a single mother of two, and my children demand a lot of my time and attention as well. When I am on a night shift rotation, most days I am only able to get about five to six hours of interrupted sleep. I have to get my five year old daughter off the school bus in the afternoon. My son comes home about an hour later. I am helping with homework, packing their overnight bags, and cooking dinner before I have to report back to work that evening.
On my days off from work, my body is still on a “ night shift” schedule, therefore causing me to sleep most of the day and be up all night. I have a three bedroom house. There are many times where I am too tired to dust, or too tired to vacuum. At times my house may remain in disarray until I have the energy or the time to attend to it. Often times, I am also too tired to cook. I may have food in my freezer, but just decide to eat out to avoid having to cook and wash dishes later. I have now broken several more of Franklin’s virtues: order, frugality, and cleanliness.
Order, because I allow my house to be in disarray and have at times kept my business out of order. Frugality, because instead of cooking something I already have in my freezer I’ll choose to eat out to avoid cooking and having to clean up later. Cleanliness, because there are times when my house is dusty or needs to be vacuumed and I’ll allow it to stay this way until I have the energy to attend to it. In addition to no regard for basic human nature and lack of emotion, Franklin’s plan is also flawed because different people have a different interpretation of what they think perfection Bristow 4 is.
Franklin clearly had different views than what many people have today about what perfection is. Franklin created a list of some of the virtues he considered to be things that would help him achieve moral perfection, but who is to say that his interpretation of what he believed to be morally right is the same as others or mine? No two people are alike. We all have different thoughts and beliefs. What Franklin deemed to be moral may not be the same as what I consider to be moral, and my thoughts on morality may be different from others. Some of the virtues Franklin listed were temperance, industry, and chastity (134).
He believed one should refrain from eating too much and getting drunk. He believed we should always be employed in doing something useful and not wasting any time. He also believed we should rarely engage in sexual intercourse except for health reasons or to produce children. He felt one should not engage in sex simply because of pleasure or because of weakness. I am one who enjoys extracurricular activities outside of working every day. I enjoy taking vacations or just doing fun activities with my friends and loved ones. I enjoy watching my favorite television programs or just “ surfing” the internet.
I may enjoy a glass of wine or two or more at dinner. I enjoy romantic evenings with my boyfriend and being intimate with him, and I have no intentions of having any more children. As a single mom who works a stressful job I enjoy having down time when the opportunity presents itself. Am I immoral and wrong to enjoy such things? According to Franklin’s interpretation of what is morally right, I have broken these virtues. I do not believe I am wrong for enjoying these simple pleasures. What I believe to be morally right is different from Franklin’s.
Some may agree with him, or some may agree with me. Some may have a different opinion entirely. No one person can set the standard for what is right for that person. We all have a different idea of what we consider to be perfect. Bristow 5 Though I admire Benjamin Franklin for attempting to devise a plan for moral perfection, I believe that plan was flawed. Our basic human nature, emotions and thoughts, and our different ideas of what perfection is may cause us to make less than perfect decisions and live less than perfect lives, according to what other people may think.
I still believe his chart could be used as a tool for a model of self examination. However, I think it is unrealistic to think that we will govern our lives according to this plan every single day of our lives. We are humans. We are bound to make mistakes, no matter how good our intentions. We sometimes react on emotion, we aren’t robots. We don’t just follow commands and orders every day. We also may see nothing wrong with enjoying certain pleasures in life that others may think is wrong. What is morally right for one person may not necessarily be right for someone else.
Who is to say that one person sets the standard for everyone else in what is right and perfect? Franklin’s plan is just not something that we would be able to realistically follow. There are certain things that would need to be taken into consideration and a standard set for what perfection is. Because we know people may have different views of perfection, are sometimes governed by their emotions, or react based on outside influences or their own individuality, this plan would be very difficult to follow and therefore flawed.