18th Century Podcast: Episode 22 A Letter to a Royal Academy About Farting

Benjamin Franklin at a desk

Listen here: https://anchor.fm/cj123/episodes/18th-Century-Podcast-Episode-22-A-Letter-to-a-Royal-Academy-About-Farting-e90h6u/a-a11j5ob

Summary

In this episode of the 18th Century Podcast, I read an essay Benjamin Franklin wrote about farting in 1781. I think most people forget that people back in the 18th Century were human too, and did have a sense of humor. Benjamin Franklin was known for his humor and I think this lighthearted episode is well needed and deserved. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the soothing sounds of the words of Ben Franklin as he gives his elegant thoughts on farting.

Essay

GENTLEMEN,

I have perused your late mathematical Prize Question, proposed in lieu of one in Natural Philosophy, for the ensuing year, viz. “Une figure quelconque donnee, on demande d’y inscrire le plus grand nombre de fois possible une autre figure plus-petite quelconque, qui est aussi donnee”. I was glad to find by these following Words, “l’Acadeemie a jugee que cette deecouverte, en eetendant les bornes de nos connoissances, ne seroit pas sans UTILITE”, that you esteem Utility an essential Point in your Enquiries, which has not always been the case with all Academies; and I conclude therefore that you have given this Question instead of a philosophical, or as the Learned express it, a physical one, because you could not at the time think of a physical one that promis’d greater Utility.

Permit me then humbly to propose one of that sort for your consideration, and through you, if you approve it, for the serious Enquiry of learned Physicians, Chemists, &c. of this enlightened Age.

It is universally well known, That in digesting our common Food, there is created or produced in the Bowels of human Creatures, a great Quantity of Wind.

That the permitting this Air to escape and mix with the Atmosphere, is usually offensive to the Company, from the fetid Smell that accompanies it.

That all well-bred People therefore, to avoid giving such Offence, forcibly restrain the Efforts of Nature to discharge that Wind.

That so retain’d contrary to Nature, it not only gives frequently great present Pain, but occasions future Diseases, such as habitual Cholics, Ruptures, Tympanies, &c. often destructive of  the Constitution, & sometimes of Life itself.

Were it not for the odiously offensive Smell accompanying such Escapes, polite People would probably be under no more Restraint in discharging such Wind in Company, than they are in spitting, or in blowing their Noses.

My Prize Question therefore should be, To discover some Drug wholesome & not disagreable, to be mix’d with our common Food, or Sauces, that shall render the natural Discharges of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreable as Perfumes.

That this is not a chimerical Project, and altogether impossible, may appear from these Considerations. That we already have some Knowledge of Means capable of Varying that Smell. He that dines on stale Flesh, especially with much Addition of Onions, shall be able to afford a Stink that no Company can tolerate; while he that has lived for some Time on Vegetables only, shall have that Breath so pure as to be insensible to the most delicate Noses; and if he can manage so as to avoid the Report, he may any where give Vent to his Griefs, unnoticed. But as there are many to whom an entire Vegetable Diet would be inconvenient, and as a little Quick-Lime thrown into a Jakes will correct the amazing Quantity of fetid Air arising from the vast Mass of putrid Matter contain’d in such Places, and render it rather pleasing to the Smell, who knows but that a little Powder of Lime (or some other thing equivalent) taken in our Food, or perhaps a Glass of Limewater drank at Dinner, may have the same Effect on the Air produc’d in and issuing from our Bowels? This is worth the Experiment. Certain it is also that we have the Power of changing by slight Means the Smell of another Discharge, that of our Water. A few Stems of Asparagus eaten, shall give our Urine a disagreable Odour; and a Pill of Turpentine no bigger than a Pea, shall bestow on it the pleasing Smell of Violets. And why should it be thought more impossible in Nature, to find Means of making a Perfume of our Wind than of our Water?

For the Encouragement of this Enquiry, (from the immortal Honour to be reasonably expected by the Inventor) let it be considered of how small Importance to Mankind, or to how small a Part of Mankind have been useful those Discoveries in Science that have heretofore made Philosophers famous. Are there twenty Men in Europe at this Day, the happier, or even the easier, for any Knowledge they have pick’d out of Aristotle? What Comfort can the Vortices of Descartes give to a Man who has Whirlwinds in his Bowels! The Knowledge of Newton’s mutual Attraction of the Particles of Matter, can it afford Ease to him who is rack’d by their mutual Repulsion, and the cruel Distensions it occasions? The Pleasure arising to a few Philosophers, from seeing, a few Times in their Life, the Threads of Light untwisted, and separated by the Newtonian Prism into seven Colours, can it be compared with the Ease and Comfort every Man living might feel seven times a Day, by discharging freely the Wind from his Bowels? Especially if it be converted into a Perfume: For the Pleasures of one Sense being little inferior to those of another, instead of pleasing the Sight he might delight the Smell of those about him, & make Numbers happy, which to a benevolent Mind must afford infinite Satisfaction. The generous Soul, who now endeavours to find out whether the Friends he entertains like best Claret or Burgundy, Champagne or Madeira, would then enquire also whether they chose Musk or Lilly, Rose or Bergamot, and provide accordingly. And surely such a Liberty of Expressing one’s Scent-iments, and pleasing one another, is of infinitely more Importance to human Happiness than that Liberty of the Press, or of abusing one another, which the English are so ready to fight & die for. — In short, this Invention, if compleated, would be, as Bacon expresses it, bringing Philosophy home to Mens Business and Bosoms. And I cannot but conclude, that in Comparison therewith, for universal and continual UTILITY, the Science of the Philosophers above-mentioned, even with the Addition, Gentlemen, of your “Figure quelconque” and the Figures inscrib’d in it, are, all together, scarcely worth a

FART-HING.

Citations

Franklin, Benjamin. “A Letter to a Royal Academy About Farting.” Teaching American History, https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/to-the-royal-academy-of-farting/.

18th Century Podcast Episode 10 The Enlightenment

Painting of The Enlightenment

Listen here: https://anchor.fm/cj123/episodes/18th-Century-Podcast-Episode-10-The-Enlightenment-e4qupp/a-ak3oke

Summary

The Enlightenment is perhaps one of the most important philosophical and scientific movements in history. In today’s episode we cover a brief history of The Enlightenment, we go over some of it’s core ideas, and we’ll do a mini bio for John Locke.

Script

INTRO

Welcome back to the 18th Century Podcast, I am your host Cj. In today’s episode, we’ll be covering one of the most important topics of the 18th Century, The Enlightenment. We’ll be going over a brief history and some of the Philosophers and their ideas in this episode. If you’d like to read the script for this episode and its citations, go to 18thcentury.home.blog that’s 1, 8, t h, century dot home dot blog. Type the numbers don’t spell them. Let’s begin with a brief history of, The Englightenment.

PART 1: THE ENLIGHTENMENT, A HISTORY

The Englightenment, also known as, The Age Of Reason, began in the 17th Century. The ideas brought forth during this time will be carried over into the 18th Century and hold great influence. The Enlightenment would hold sway over many different aspects of life, such as philosophy, politics, science, etc… During my research for this episode, I found many contesting points declaring when the enlightenment began. The earliest of which started with Francis Bacon in 1620, with his publication of Novum Organum. In 1651, Thomas Hobbes would publish his book, Leviathan. In the book, he would argue, in simplest terms, for absolute monarchy. The idea of social contract theory would find its root’s with Hobbes as well. Then jumping forward to the 1680s we see two important texts published. The fist is Principia Mathematica, by Isiac Newton in 1686. The second is, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, by John Locke in 1689. A year later John Locke would publish arguably his most important contribution to The Enlightenment, his Second Treatise On Government. Then from the 1730s-1780s, we get a bulk of Enlightenment texts. We’ll see the writings of Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Smith, Kant, and many others as well. In 1748, Montesquieu would put forth his political work, The Spirit of the Laws. Then in 1762, Rousseau would publish his work, On the Social Contract. On March 9th of 1776, Adam Smith’s, The Wealth of Nations is published. This would mark one of the most interesting economic texts was only a few months off from the Declaration of Independence. Then heading towards the 1780s, we get the work of Immanuel Kant. What’s interesting about The Englightenment is the fact that it’s pretty much a decades-long conversation between philosophers. The Enlightenment would span across Europe and the Americas. Now that I’ve covered a very brief history, I think it’s time that we take a closer look into some of the ideas of, Then Enlightenment.

PART 2: ENLIGHTENMENT IDEAS

Let’s kick things off with arguably the most influential ideas of The Enlightenment, politics. When The Enlightenment begins, we see absolute monarchy being espoused by philosophers. Yet as the decades start moving forward, they begin to tend towards Republicanism. In Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, he purposed the idea of the divine right of kings. The basic idea of this is, Kings are appointed by God and thus are justified to rule over others. I think it’s obvious to say that this type of doctrine would be popular with absolute monarchs. Yet, when John Locke came in with his two treatises on government, it was basically a refutation of the idea of the divine right of kings. Also from Locke, we get more development in the area of Natural Rights. Locke would come to argue for the Natural Rights of life, liberty, and property. Locke was also a proponent of Natural Law. Then with Montesquieu, we get the idea of a few different forms of government which he lists as Republics, Monarchies, and Despotisms. I would like to note that we get more of the modern view of Republicanism from Montesquieu, which in the modern vernacular would be a Representative Democracy. If you went to school in the United States, you were probably taught about this idea. Yet as a fun fact, this idea of Republicanism as presented by Montesquieu clashes with a more classical approach as presented by Cicero. Cicero would have described a Republic as a mixed form of government which combines aspects of monarchy, democracy, and aristocracy into one system which balances itself. I thought it would be interesting to share how definitions and ideas change over time, and this was one great example. Now with Rousseau, he presents the idea of The Social Contract. The Social contract was introduced before, but he refined the idea. He would contrast with Locke’s view more so, by being in favor of direct democracy as his view on the best way to govern society. The political works of The Enlightenment influenced the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Now moving forward to the field of economics, I think it’s safe to say, Adam Smith’s, The Wealth of Nations, is perhaps the most influential economic work out of the 18th Century. It introduced the world to the economic idea of Capitalism. From then on, it revolutionized the world. Many schools of thought on economics have sprung up since Smith’s work. On the scientific side of things, we saw many advancements. The basis of the modern Scientific Method began to form. Newton made advancements in mathematics and the study of gravity. The discovery of the planet Uranus by William Herschel occurred. Also, the mass of the Sun was calculated. You would also see Benjamin Franklin’s work with electricity. Now regarding the religious side of, The Enlightenment, there were many developments too. The most prominent view associated with this period would probably be, Deism. The Deistic view is that there is God, and God did create the universe but does not interfere with the going on’s of it. The other idea of Deism was that God could be known through reason. I might make an episode in the future of Deism since it’s a pretty fascinating topic. But also during, The Enlightenment was a greater sense of religious tolerance. You see an expansion of Protestantism during the period as well. I believe what I presented here covers some of the most basic and widespread views of, The Enlightenment. Now, I’m going to take a short break, and when I come back we’ll take a brief look into the life of John Locke.

PART 3:A Brief Bio of John Locke

Welcome back to the 18th Century Podcast. We’ll continue our second half of the show by taking a brief look into the life of John Locke. John Locke was born on August 29th, 1632. He was born in Wrington, Somerset, England, and grew up in Pensford, which was close to Bristol. John’s father was a lawyer and a Calvery Capitan during the English Civil Wars. After the first Civil War, John’s father secured a spot for his son at Westminster School, in London. John would attend the school when he was only 14 years old. Though John was gifted in academics and elected as a King’s Scholar in 1650, he would come to despise the school system. He disapproved of corporal punishment, and some of the behavior of the students as well. In 1693 he would put pen to paper and give his thoughts on education, arguing for a private tutor over boarding schools. When he was 20 years old, he attended Christ Church, at Oxford. In 1663, John was appointed senior censor in Christ Church, which among his duties were to oversee undergraduates and give lectures. Locke eventually became a member of the Royal Society and began to study medicine. In 1675 Locke traveled to France after losing favor with King Charles II. By the time he left for France, John had earned his bachelors degree in medicine from Oxford. During his time in France, he would befriend the intellectuals and protestants. He would head home in 1679. In September of 1683, Locke would make his way to Holland. The reason being was that John’s friend a few years prior was being closely watched by the English Government and fled to Holland, which the friend died in 1683. John himself was being closely watched by the English government at the time too. John would stay in Holland for the next serval years. He returned to England in February of 1689. He became more involved in politics under the newly crowned Queen Mary II. John would assist in writing the English Bill of Rights. He spent his final years with friends and continuing with his writing. John Locke died on October 28th, 1704.

OUTRO


The Enlightenment was probably one of the greatest philosophical movements in history. I would have liked to have made this episode a bit longer, but I didn’t have enough time this week, my apologies. The script and citations for this episode and all other episodes can be found at https://18thcentury.home.blog that’s 1, 8, t h, century dot home dot blog. Type the numbers don’t spell them. If you’d like to support the show, please share it and leave a review. I’ve been your host Cj, and thank you for listening to this episode of the 18th Century Podcast.

CITATIONS

Duignan, Brian. “Enlightenment.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 29 Mar. 2019, http://www.britannica.com/event/Enlightenment-European-history.

Bristow, William, “Enlightenment”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/enlightenment/.

“Age of Enlightenment.” New World Encyclopedia, . 8 Feb 2019, 17:14 UTC. 29 Jul 2019, 22:22 .

Editors, History.com. “Enlightenment.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 16 Dec. 2009, http://www.history.com/topics/british-history/enlightenment.

Szalay, Jessie. “What Was the Enlightenment?” LiveScience, Purch, 7 July 2016, http://www.livescience.com/55327-the-enlightenment.html.

Blenman, Joy. “Adam Smith and ‘The Wealth of Nations.’” Investopedia, Investopedia, 26 July 2019, http://www.investopedia.com/updates/adam-smith-wealth-of-nations/.

Tuckness, Alex, “Locke’s Political Philosophy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2018/entries/locke-political/.

“Charles De Secondat, Baron De Montesquieu.” Charles De Secondat, Baron De Montesquieu – New World Encyclopedia, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Charles_de_Secondat,_baron_de_Montesquieu.

Clayton, Edward. “Cicero (106—43 B.C.E.).” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://www.iep.utm.edu/cicero/#SH7c.

“Experiments with Electricity.” Benjamin Franklin Historical Society, http://www.benjamin-franklin-history.org/experiments-with-electricity/.

Rogers, Graham A.J. “John Locke.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 26 June 2019, http://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Locke.