APHORISM (ἀφορίζω, to bound or limit).—A precise, sententious saying;
is always safe to learn from our enemies, seldom safe to instruct even our
Heraclitus is known by his aphorisms, which are among the
most brilliant of those
Jewels five words long,
That on the stretched forefinger of all time,
Among the most famous are—War is father of all things, i.e., all things are
evolved by antagonistic force. No man can bathe twice in the same stream, i.e.,
all things are in perpetual flux.
Bacon says:—"The first and most ancient inquirers into truth were wont to throw
their knowledge into aphorisms, or short, scattered, unmethodical sentences "
(Nov. Organ., bk. I. sec. 86). And the Novum Organum itself is written in
Coleridge, Aids to Reflection, I. 16, edit. 1848, note; 5th ed. p. 17:—"In
order to get the full sense of a word, we should first present to our minds the
visual image that forms
its primary meaning...This twofold act of circumscribing
and detaching, when it is exerted by the mind on subjects of reflection and
reason, is to aphorise, and the result an aphorism."
"In philosophy, equally as in poetry, it is the highest and most useful
prerogative of genius to produce the strongest impressions of novelty, while it
rescues admitted truths from the neglect caused by the very circumstance of
their universal admission. Extremes meet. Truths, of all others the most awful
and interesting, are too often considered as so true that they lose all the
power of truth, and lie bedridden in the dormitory of the soul, side by side
with the most despised and exploded errors " (ib., p. 1).