Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Introduction to the Art of Thinking and the Nature of Things

Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782), judge and writer of the Scottish Enlightenment, laid down a series of still-relevant aphorisms that were first published in 1761. 

One of the most important accomplishments of Kames' career was helping decide a case that, in effect, banned slavery in Scotland for all time -- while American leaders conducted a "War of Independence" that kept the institution of slavery intact. Shall we admit that this Scotsman was a wise person, indeed? 

Here are some selections from Henry Home's Introduction to the Art of Thinking (1761). Page references are to an American edition published in New York City in 1818 by "W.B. Qilly." The only modernization requested for the 21st century might be to substitute, in most cases, person for man and humanity for mankind. Not bad for a 255-year old tract. Note: "chicaning" is the verb form of "chicanery." 

Mankind, through all ages, have been the same: The first times beheld first the present vices.  (p. 25)

So fond of liberty is man, that to restrain him from any thing, however indifferent, is sufficient to make that thing an object of desire. (p. 26)

It is more tolerable to be always alone, than never to be so. (p. 26)

So prone is man to society, and so happy in it, that, to relish perpetual solitude, one must be an angel or a brute. (p. 26)

A man is more unhappy in reproaching himself when guilty, than in being reproached by others when innocent. (p. 27)

Seldom is a man so wicked but he will endeavor to reconcile if possible, his actions with his duty. But such chicaning will not lay his conscience asleep: It will notwithstanding haunt him like a ghost, and frighten him out of his wits. (p 27)

Happiness is less valued when we possess it, than when we have lost it. (p. 28)

The pains of the mind are harder to bear than those of the body. (p. 28)

Our opinions are swayed more by feeling than by argument. (p. 29)

Every man esteems his own misfortune the greatest. (p.29)

The present misfortune is always deemed the greatest : and therefore small causes are sufficient to make a man uneasy, when great ones are not in the way.  (p. 29)

That reason which is favourable to our desires, appears always the best. (p. 30)

Change of condition begets new passions, and consequently new opinions. (p. 30)

It is idle, as well as absurd, to impose our opinions upon others. The same ground of conviction operates differently on the same man in different circumstances, and on different men in the same circumstances. (p. 30)

A new sorrow recalls all the former. (p. 31)

Men are governed by custom. Not one of a thousand thinks for himself; and the few who are emancipated, dare not act up to their freedom, for fear of being thought whimsical. (p. 32)

A man intimately acquainted with the nature of things, has seldom occasion to be astonished. (p. 33)

Men of a fearful temper are prone to suspicion and cruelty. Fear begets apprehension, the parent of suspicion; and suspicion begets hatred and revenge. (p. 33)

He must fear many whom many fear. (p 34)

It betokens as great a soul to be capable of owning a fault, as to be incapable of committing it. (p 35)

Whoever appears to have much cunning, has in reality very little; being deficient in the essential article, which is, to hide cunning. (p. 36)

If a man could at once accomplish all his desires, he would be a miserable creature; for the chief pleasure of this life is to wish and desire. (p. 36)

None are so invincible as your half-witted people: They know just enough to excite their pride, not enough to cure it. (p. 36)

The same littleness of soul that makes a man despise inferiors, and trample on them, makes him abjectly obsequious to superiors. (p. 37)

A man who gives his children a habit of industry, provides for them better than by giving them a stock of money. (p. 40)

Breach of friendship begets the bitterest enmity. (p. 43)

The young are slaves to novelty, the old to custom. (p. 44)

No preacher is so successful as time. It gives a turn of thought to the aged, which it was impossible to inspire while they were young. (p 44)

Unmarried men are the best friends, the best masters, the best servants, but not always the best subjects. (p. 44)

Today's Rune: Growth.



the walking man said...

"A man intimately acquainted with the nature of things, has seldom occasion to be astonished." -- Hence the explanation as to how nothing surprises me anymore.

Charles Gramlich said...

A wise man indeed. Love these.

Tom Sarmo said...

Thanks for this, Erik