Aphorism

An aphorism (from aphorismos, denoting ‘delimitation’, ‘distinction’, and ‘definition’) is a concise, terse, laconic, or memorable expression of a general truth or principle. They are often handed down by tradition from generation to generation. The concept is distinct from those of an adagebrocard, chiasmusepigram, maxim (legal or philosophical), principleproverb, and saying; some of these concepts are species of aphorism.

Saying Wisdom Today Seize The Day Carpe Diem

Wisdom saying

History

The word was first used in the Aphorisms of Hippocrates, a long series of propositions concerning the symptoms and diagnosis of disease and the art of healing and medicine. The often cited first sentence of this work is:

This aphorism was later applied or adapted to physical science and then morphed into multifarious aphorisms of philosophy, morality, and literature. Currently an aphorism is generally understood to be a concise and eloquent statement of truth.

Aphorisms are distinct from axioms: aphorisms generally originate from experience and custom, whereas axioms are self-evident truths and therefore require no additional proof. Aphorisms have been especially used in subjects to which no methodical or scientific treatment was originally applied, such as agriculture, medicine, jurisprudence and politics.

A famous example is:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

— Lord Acton

Literature

Aphoristic collections, sometimes known as wisdom literature, have a prominent place in the canons of several ancient societies, such as the Sutra literature of India, the Biblical Ecclesiastes, Islamic hadiths, the golden verses of Pythagoras, Hesiod’s Works and Days, the Delphic maxims, and Epictetus’ Handbook. Aphoristic collections also make up an important part of the work of some modern authors. A 1559 oil–on–oak-panel painting, Netherlandish Proverbs (also called The Blue Cloak or The Topsy Turvy World) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, artfully depicts a land populated with literal renditions of Flemish aphorisms (proverbs) of the day.

The first noted published collection of aphorisms is Adagia by Erasmus. Other important early aphorists were Baltasar Gracián, François de La Rochefoucauld and Blaise Pascal.

Two influential collections of aphorisms published in the twentieth century were The Uncombed Thoughts by Stanisław Jerzy Lec (in Polish), and Itch of Wisdom by Mikhail Turovsky (in Russian and English).

Society

Many societies have traditional sages or culture heroes to whom aphorisms are commonly attributed, such as the Seven Sages of Greece, Confucius or King Solomon.

Misquoted or misadvised aphorisms are frequently used as a source of humour; for instance, wordplays of aphorisms appear in the works of P. G. Wodehouse, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Aphorisms being misquoted by sports players, coaches, and commentators form the basis of Private Eye’s Colemanballs section.

Aphorists

Main page: Category:Aphorists

  • Wasif Ali Wasif: A Pakistani writer, poet and Sufi intellectual, known as master of Aphorism
  • Seneca the Younger: Roman Stoic philosopher.
  • Burchard of Worms: mediaeval Catholic priest and canonist.
  • Juan Manuel: Prince of Villena (Spain) and mediaeval author; the second, third and fourth parts of his famous work El Conde Lucanor are collections of aphorisms.
  • François de La Rochefoucauld
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Joseph Joubert
  • Arthur Schopenhauer
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Nicolás Gómez Dávila
  • Dorothy Parker
  • Patanjali
  • Stanisław Jerzy Lec
  • Mikhail Turovsky
  • Karl Kraus
  • Emil Cioran
  • Edmond Jabès
  • Malcolm de Chazal
  • Andrzej Majewski
  • Alexander Woollcott
  • Oiva Paloheimo
  • Petar II Petrović-Njegoš
  • Faina Ranevskaya
  • Lao Tze
  • Georges Bataille
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Bed of Procrustes
  • Jean Baudrillard
  • Lev Shestov
  • Desiderius Erasmus
  • Voltaire
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Theodor W. Adorno: his Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life (German: Minima Moralia: Reflexionen aus dem beschädigten Leben) is a collection of aphorisms and reflections written while in exile in the United States during World War II.
  • Gustave Flaubert: Dictionary of Received Ideas.
  • Ambrose Bierce: The Devil’s Dictionary.
  • Cheng Yen: Jing Si Aphorism. (Buddhism)

See also

References

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leave a Reply

Scroll Up
%d bloggers like this: