Saturday, May 4, 2013

This Guy Sounds Just Like Benjamin Franklin

I don't know much about Stephen Fry, but a quick Internet search tells me that he is a British actor, playwright, comedian, activist, and humanist.  I found a lot to agree with in this interview (below), and a lot to disagree with.

As a historian, I was struck by the fact that Fry sounds a lot like Benjamin Franklin.  (My British Colonial America students wrestled with the ideas in the Autobiography this semester during our unit on the Enlightenment).  He does not like limits or organized religion, wants to do good for his fellow human beings, seeks opportunities for networking and conversation, and thinks that education happens in Junto-like communities. (Although he seems a lot less self-centered than Franklin). This video is worth watching and thinking about.

HT: Ryan Cordell at Profhacker


Tom Van Dyke said...


Wiki [sorry]:

Fry has repeatedly expressed opposition to organised religion, and has identified himself as an atheist and humanist,

Franklin was very theistic*, and although not personally into organized religion, could be counted on for a contribution to every sect and church, the more the merrier.
*"The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: 'that God governs in the affairs of men.'

And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"

Paul M. said...

Fry is also libertarian-ish (although the label is problematic because Britain has no libertarian party nor does it have much of a recent libertarian intellectual history...the days of the Corn Law protests are long over).

"Goodness knows there’s a huge part of me that is libertarian and contra-dirigiste enough in outlook to look with longing at the certainties of the Reasonable Right. But you would have to be naive or dishonest to deny the certainty of the outcome of a Conservative government in terms of its friendship with bankers, financiers, fund managers and those who manipulate and massage capital for a living. I do not for a minute concur with some visceral Labour views of Tories as being automatically and genetically uncaring or socially illiberal. True, there are dozens and dozens of Conservative candidates whose repellent stupidity and vulgarity would make even a Daily Mail reader blush and stammer, just as there are dozens and dozens of Labour candidates whose bigoted, dull-witted asininity would embarrass a Guardian reader into dribbling delirium. And there are plenty of Tories whose hopes for the poor and the dispossessed and the outcast are as sincere as that of any socialist or liberal."