Apothegms. Of Concision.

  • A concise sentence and a vapid sentence often have in common their size and form.
    • Many love short sentences but find concise ones distasteful.
      • For ease of reading, most prefer the short over the concise.
      • For the same reason, most dislike reading from someone who takes too many words to get at a thought. “Better not to say it if it takes too long to say.”
        • Most prefer sentences to repeat their own thoughts and not to say anything at all.
  • A short sentence might not be concise.
    • A long sentence might be concise.
    • A concise sentence pregnant with meaning has no certain size.
  • The advent of the meme is the downfall of concision.
    • Concision is not for the sake of the reader’s thinking quickly. Rather, it is for the sake of the reader’s thinking much and clearly.
    • If a meme demanded too much time, as a concise sentence might, it would not become too popular.

A Critique of a Maxim. Of Confidence. Of Appearance.

The maxim says, “Competence is better than confidence; and truth, more than the appearance of things.”

What a waste, though, when insight stays inside, when speed runs in circles, when eloquence spends itself on self-deprecation, when good news is hoarded for oneself!

Competence implies confidence and is mere possibility without it. And truth is indeed more than appearances, but what is its glory without its revelation?

A Criticism. Of a Maxim Misattributed to Francis of Assisi.

Francis of Assisi never wrote the following maxim, attributed to him since the late twentieth century:

Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.

The maxim’s implication is contrary to Francis’s work as a writer. It also flies in the face of the whole ministry of Jesus, who—before, during, and after the great deed of the crucifixion—preached with words, which are “spirit and life.”

Two Maxims. A Description. Of Writers of Maxims.

1. The writer of maxims must be clever and should loathe himself for it.

2. The psychological observation that goes into a maxim yields the most accurate images of kinds of people, of personalities, but it is one of the least authentic ways of relating to individuals.

3. The great task of the wisdom-loving ironist is to craft a maxim to the individual such that the reading of it disrupts the individual’s assumption that he actually resembles the kind of person he wishes to be.

A Maxim. A Quote. A Reaction. Of Friendship.

What some call “friendship” is only a club membership, only a mutual consideration of each other’s interests, only an exchange of favors. In a word, it is only a business deal in which self-love invariably finds something to gain.

—La Rochefoucauld, Maxim 83

A maxim like this is not given to tear down. Or more precisely, it is not given to tear down what is worth keeping. Sometimes we ought to ridicule and get rid of what is false.

Three Quotes. Of Contrariety.

In a passaged labeled “Contrariétés,” Pascal said,

Let man now estimate his own worth. Let him love himself, for in him is a nature capable of good; but let him not love himself on account of the baseness that is there. Let him despise himself because this capability is unexercised [vide]; but let him not despise himself on account of this natural capability itself. Let him hate himself, let him love himself: he has in him the ability to know the truth and to be happy, but he has no truth, or constancy, or satisfaction.*

And La Rochefoucauld said,

The imagination could not invent so many diverse contrarieties as there are contrarieties naturally in the heart of each person.**

But Vauvenargues said,

Those who cannot make sense of the varieties of the human spirit suppose it involves unexplainable contrarieties.

How will Kierkegaard and Nietzsche respond? And Freud and Foucault?

Pensées §423, labeled “Contrariétés.”

** Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales, Maxime 478.

† Opening line of Introduction à la connaissance de l’esprit humain.

(All translations mine.)