Sunday, August 28, 2016

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

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.

He must be imprudent indeed who makes his physician his heir. (p. 75)

Speak not ill of an enemy: it will be ascribed to prejudice, not truth. (p. 76)

One must be acquainted with his failings before he can think of a remedy; but concealing them from others is a step toward concealing them from ourselves. A habit of sincerity in acknowledging faults, is a guard against committing them. (p. 77)

To gain knowledge of ourselves, the best way is to convert the imperfections of others into a mirror for discovering our own. We may learn as much from the faults of our friends as from their instructions. (p. 78)

Subdue your restless temper that leads you to aim at preeminence in every little circumstance: like many other passions, it obstructs its own end; instead of gaining respect, it renders you a most disagreeable companion. (p. 79)

Apply yourself more to acquire knowledge, than to show it. Men commonly take great pains to put off the little stock they have; but they take little pains to acquire more. (p. 79)

Yield to reason from whatever quarter. (p. 81)

Difference in opinion is no less natural than difference in look: it is at the same time the very salt of conversation. Why then should we be offended at those who think differently from us? (p. 81)

It is as gross ingratitude to publish the favours of a mistress, as to conceal those of a friend. (p. 82)

He makes but a half denial who denies quickly. (p. 84)

All are idolaters, some of glory, some of interest, some of love: the art is to find out the idol. This is the master key to the heart. (p. 86)

A right-turned mind will choose the company of free spirits . . . (p. 86)

The great error in conversation is, to be fonder of speaking than of hearing. (p. 88)

We make so disagreeable and ridiculous a figure with the monosyllable ‘I did, I said,’ that it were better to forswear it altogether. (p. 88)

He who cannot bear a jest, ought never to make one. (p. 90)

Labour to unite in thyself the scattered perfections of the several nations thou travellest among. (p. 90)

Civility is not so slight a matter as it is commonly thought: it is a duty we owe to others as well to ourselves (p. 92)

There are three stages of life, the present, the past, and the future. The present is momentary, the future dubious, the past only certain. It [the past] is lost to the busy, who have no time to look back; and to the wicked who have no inclination (pp. 92-93)

The avaricious have no enjoyment of what they retain: the liberal enjoy even what they give away. (p. 96)

We should bear with patience a small evil, when it is connected with a greater good. (p. 96)

Poverty wants much, avarice everything. Money is a useful servant but a most tyrannical master. (p. 97)

To have your enemy in your power, and yet to do him good, is the greatest heroism (p. 101)

The gratification of our wishes is often dangerous. (p. 208) 

Today's Rune: Fertility. 


the walking man said...

"Poverty wants much, avarice everything. Money is a useful servant but a most tyrannical master."

Just as true today as it was 300 years ago--Man it would seem in the macro level, incapable of reform.

Charles Gramlich said...

I try not to have my enemies in my power. I'm not sure I'd do the right thing