On aphorisms

Posted on February 7, 2008

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My first serious theological study was on Coleridge, who delved deeply into the idea of the ‘aphorism’ as a mode of instruction. He says, in his Aids to Reflection, that ‘[t]his twofold act of circumscribing, and detaching, when it is exerted by the mind on subjects of reflection and reason, is to aphorise…’ (footnote to ‘Introductory Aphorism XXV’); he goes on to say this: ‘[e]xclusively of the abstract sciences, the largest and worthiest portion of our knowledge consists of aphorisms…’ (‘Introductory Aphorism XXVII’). I’m not sure about that; but the intellectual work he commends, of attempting to boil down an insight into its tersest form, to state the whole essence of the matter with no development or padding, is one that occasionally attracts me. Hence aphorisms.

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