Thursday, September 25, 2008

Feigned Erudition

"Many men" (saith Seneca) "had been without question wise, had they not had an opinion that they had attained to perfection of knowledge already, even before they had gone half-way," too forward, too ripe, praeproperi, too quick and ready, cito prudentes, cito pii, cito mariti, cito patres, cito sacerdotes, cito omnis officii capaces et curiosi, they had too good a conceit of themselves, and that marred all; of their worth, valour, skill, art, learning, judgment, eloquence, their good parts; all their geese are swans, and that manifestly proves them to be no better than fools. In former times they had but seven wise men, now you can scarce find so many fools. Thales sent the golden tripos, which the fishermen found and oracle commanded to be "given to the wisest," to Bias, Bias to Solon, etc. If such a thing were now found, we should all fight for it, as the three goddesses did for that golden apple, we are so wise: we have women politicians, children metaphysicians; every silly fellow can square a circle, make perpetual motions, find the philosopher's stone, interpret Apocalypsis, make new theorics, a new system of the world, new logic, new philosophy, etc. Notra utique regio, saith Petronius, "our country is so full of deified spirits, divine souls, that you may sooner find a god than a man amongst us," we think so well of ourselves; and that is an ample testimony of much folly.

--Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy


Lee Faber said...

nice. I especially like "all their geese are swans"

Michael Sullivan said...

Yeah, also "all their friends are imaginary."

Oh wait, that's you.