Page:Moralreflection00stangoog.djvu/21

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INTRODUCTION.

whereas methods, carrying the show of a total, do secure men, as if they were at furthest."

A principal cause of the attractiveness of this mode of writing lies in the necessarily epigrammatic turn of the sentences, which constantly arrests the attention; and while it stimulates the reader's reflection, renders the point of the observation more palpable and more easy to be retained in the memory. It is, besides, no mean advantage to be spared the exertion of wading through and deciding upon the successive stages, each perhaps admitting of discussion, of a tedious and involved argument, and to be presented at once with ready-made conclusions. Notwithstanding Bacon's second remark on aphorisms, it seems questionable whether the mind is not more disposed to assent to a proposition when clearly and boldly announced on the ipse dixit of a writer, than when arrived at as the termination of a chain of reasoning. Where so much proof is required, men are apt to think much doubt exists; and a simple enunciation of a truth is, on this account perhaps, the more imposing from our not being admitted, as it were, behind the scenes, and allowed to inspect the machinery which has produced the result. There is, besides, a yearn mg after infallibility to a greater or less degree latent in every human heart, that derives a momentary gratification from the oracular nature of these declarations of truth, which seem to be exempt from the faults and shortcomings of human reason, and to spring, with all the precision of instinct, full grown to light, like Minerva from the head of Jupiter.[1]

The chief, perhaps the only serious, defect incidental to this mode of composition, is the constantly recurring temptation to sacrifice the strict truth to the point of the maxim.

  1. See Aristot. Rhet. book ii. c. 21.