Friday, August 26, 2016

Introduction to the Art of Thinking and the Nature of Things: Part Second

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.

Our enemies approach nearer truth in the judgment they form of us, than we ourselves do. (p. 47)

The coward reckons himself cautious, the miser frugal. (p. 47)

Men generally put a greater value upon the favours they bestow, than upon those they receive.  (p. 48)

None are more loath to take a jest, than they who are the most forward to bestow it. (p. 48)

We take less pains to be virtuous, than to persuade the world that we are. (p. 49)

Nothing so uncertain as general reputation. A man injures me from humour, passion, or interest; hates me because he has injured me; and speaks ill of me because he hates me. (p. 50)

Many shining actions owe their success to chance, though the general or statesman runs away with the applause. (p. 50)

He who is puffed up with the first gale of prosperity, will bend beneath the first blast of adversity. Bear adversity, that you may learn to bear prosperity. Adversity never distressed any one, whom prosperity did not blind. (p. 50)

Seldom would we desire with ardour, were we thoroughly acquainted with what we desire. (p. 51)

Who is allowed more liberty than is reasonable, will desire more than is allowed. (p. 51)

It is not what we possess that makes us happy, but what we enjoy. (p. 52)

There is no such fop as my young master of his lady-mother's making. She blows him up with self-conceit, and there he stops. She makes a man of him at twelve, and a boy all his life after. (p. 57)

Let not the pomp that surrounds the great dazzle your understanding. The prince, so magnificent in the splendour of a court, appears behind the curtain but a common man. Irresolution and care haunt him as much as another; and fear lays hold of him in the midst of his guards. (p. 58)

Leisure and solitude, the most valuable blessings that riches can procure, are avoided by the opulent, who, weary of themselves fly to company and business for relief. Where, then, lies the advantage of riches over poverty? (p. 59)

The admiration bestowed on former times, is the bias of all times: the golden age never was the present age. (p. 62)

Such is the power of imagination, that even a chimerical pleasure in expectation, affects us more than a solid pleasure in possession. (p. 62)

A word dropt [dropped] by chance from your friend offends your delicacy. Avoid a hasty reply; and beware of opening your discontent to the first person you meet. When you are cool, it will vanish, and leave no impression. (p. 71)

Luxury possibly may contribute to give bread to the poor; but if there were no luxury, there would be no poor. (p. 72)

In prosperity remember adversity; and in adversity forget not prosperity. (p. 73)

Matters of great importance and of very small, ought to be dispatched at present. (p. 50)

Trust not to others what you can do yourself. (p. 50)

Today's Rune: Journey. 

1 comment:

the walking man said...

It is interesting how many of these are relevant to this era. Learning I assume is cyclical and lessons must often be retaught. Shame that eventually the words cave to a punch in the nose and another war.