Have you read Nichloas Taleb’s latest and very short book The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms? It begins with a short introduction that frames the aphorisms to follow. The Bed of Procrustes title is from Greek mythology: the story of a man who made his visitors fit his bed to perfection by either stretching them or cutting their limbs.
Taleb says his book “contrasts the classical values of courage, elegance, and erudition against the modern diseases of nerdiness, philistinism, and phoniness.” His thesis is “we humans, facing limits of knowledge, and things we do not observe, the unseen and the unknown, resolve the tension by squeezing life and the world into crisp commoditized ideas …”
Here is one of my favorite aphorisms from Taleb’s book:
Education makes the wise slightly wiser, but it makes the fool vastly more dangerous.
What is an aphorism?
An aphorism is a tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion, often the pithy packaging of deep wisdom. An aphorism is the consequence of a process of analysis that compels the reader to wrestle with meaning and creative with it. This video contains some examples.
Meet an Aphorist
Aphorisms and quotes make me think deeply and I have a friend who is a brilliant aphorist, who says:
“A quote can be a catalyst to provide you with a new perspective, to see life or some aspect of it in a different way. “– Aphorism of the Day
Here are some of his favorite quotes on quotes:
“I quote others only in order to better express myself.”– Montaigne
“Life itself is a quotation.”– Borges
“A quotation at the right moment is like bread in a famine.”– The Talmud
“When a thing has been said and said well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it.”– Anatole France
“Proverbs contradict each other. That is the wisdom of a nation.”– Stanislaw Lec
“To quote someone is to quote oneself.”– Julio Cortazar
Here are some of my favorite quotes on quotes.
“Quotations will tell the full measure of meaning, if you have enough of them.” — James Murray
“A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.” — Miguel de Cervantes
“A fine quotation is a diamond on the finger of a witty person, but a pebble in the hands of a fool.” — Unknown
“The aphorism is cultivated only by those who have known fear in the midst of words, that fear of collapsing with all the words.” — E.M. Cioran
“A good aphorism is too hard for the tooth of time, and is not worn away with the centuries, although it serves as food for every speech.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
I’m noticing a trend on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. It seems that the number of aphorisms and quotes people I communicate with post on social networks are on the increase. Sometimes I have the feeling we are plying each other with them to fill the empty spaces that normally occur in face-to-face conversations.
Have you noticed that too?
Do you have any favorite aphorisms?
Do you have any favorite quotes on quotes?