… for self denial is never a duty or a reasonable action but as it is a natural means of procuring more pleasure than you can taste without it; so that this grave, saint-like guide to happiness, as rough and dreadful as she has been made to appear, is in truth the kindest and most beautiful mistress in the world … It is doing all the good we can to others, by acts of humanity, friendship, generosity, and benevolence; this is that constant and durable good which will afford contentment and satisfaction always alike, without variation or diminution … their happiness or chief good consist in acting up to their chief faculty, or that faculty which distinguishes them form all creatures of a different species. The chief faculty in man is his reason, and consequently his chief good, or that which may be justly called his good, consists not merely in action, but in reasonable action. By reasonable actions we understand those actions which are preservative of the human kind and naturally tend to produce real and unmixed happiness.
Source: Benjamin Franklin: “Dialogue Concerning Virtue and Pleasure,” and “A Second Dialogue Between Philocles and Horatio Concerning Virtue and Pleasure,” from “The Works of Benjamin Franklin,” edited by John Bigelow, Vol. I, pp. 387, 393-95.
Daily Dabble in the Classics is a project of Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal. Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell.