The Ben Franklin Dinners are a unique opportunity for anyone, anywhere to recreate Franklin’s junto over a meal. It’s simple! Choose one of Franklin’s virtues to discuss and invite a small group to join you. Order pizza, organize a potluck or prepare a homecooked meal. Regardless of what you’re serving, The Ben Franklin Dinners are a fun and simple way to gather people for the meaningful conversations we all want to have but might not always have the space for.
“Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.”
1. Another word for this virtue is self-control. Do you think you have strong or weak self-control? Is it strong in some areas but weak in others? How might an individual strengthen this virtue?
2. Is temperance an important virtue for the community? Why? What are the community consequences if people are weak or strong on temperance?
“Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.”
1. Do you make time for silence each day? How?
2. Some people prefer silence more than others. What’s the best way to interact with someone who is different from you on this virtue—should you adapt to them, like by being more extraverted around in a chatty crowd? Or should you be yourself and keep quiet?
“Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.”
1. Do you keep your life ordered and organized? What are some ways that you do?
2. What role does order play in a community? Should people keep their yards and street fronts clean and ordered? Why does it matter?
3. Does being organized or orderly make you feel more productive? Happier?
“Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.”
1. Resolution has a personal and communal aspect: you should have resolution in your own affairs, but also in your affairs with others, like in keeping appointments and promises. Why is it important to keep your word to others?
2. A more contemporary word for resolution might be “grit”—setting goals and accomplishing them no matter what. Do you think of yourself as a gritty person?
“Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.”
1. Do you think people today value frugality?
2. How does this virtue play out—or fail to—in our broader culture?
3. What’s the difference between being frugal or being cheap?
“Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.”
1. Today, we might call industry by another name, “productivity.” Do you consider yourself a productive person? Do you think our society is productive?
2. Should we leave time for idleness in our lives—for moments or periods when we are at rest and not engaged in anything “useful”?
“Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
1. How might someone cultivate sincerity in their own lives?
2. Some might associate the word “sincerity” with being honest and authentic. Is sincerity, or authenticity, always a virtue? Is it better to be honest or to fib in order to spare someone’s feelings? Franklin says “use no hurtful deceit.”
“Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
1. What’s the best way to respond after you’ve been unjust to someone? What’s the best way to respond after someone has been unjust to you?
2. The phrase “social justice” gets thrown around a lot. What does it mean exactly? Are “social justice” and plain old “justice” different?
3. Justice is often thought of a societal goal — just policies, just courts. How can justice be a personal goal as well? What does it mean to live a just life?
“Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
1. Is it more important to be moderate in how you think and feel, or in what you do and say?
2. When was the last time you practiced this virtue? When was the last time you failed?
“Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.”
1. Do you like tidying up and doing chores? How do you divide chores in your household? If you don’t like doing chores, what are ways to make the experience more pleasurable and fun?
2. Many religious rituals involve cleanliness and are aimed at purification. Why do you think cleanliness is such an important aspect of these rituals?
“Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
1. Is chastity important in the context of a relationship? How about in the context of the community?
2. Of all the virtues on Franklin’s list, this one might strike a modern person as most outdated. Is it outdated? Or do you think chastity is a virtue that people ought to practice? Why or why not?
“Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
1. What are the consequences of failing to be tranquil?
2. When was the last time a “trifle” or “accident” bothered you? Were you able to practice this virtue, and let go? If so, what helped you successfully let go? If not, what hindered you?
“Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
1. When does humility become servility?
2. Why is it important to be humble? How does it improve the community? Can it ever hurt the community?
3. We often value strength in our leaders. What would it mean to value humility in our leaders? Are the two different?