Writing.2 - Aphorisms
How to craft knowledge in a nutshell.
Thinking like a thinker.
It’s been some time.
Today I’m resuming our research about writing with a particularly interesting subject.
Have you ever wondered where some of the world’s most famous quotes come from?
Quotes and Aphorisms are both literary devices very common for writers and readers.
We all read a couple of sentences that packed a transformative message in very few words, some of these are usually sentences taken from books, scripts or even expressions of the collective consciousness.
They are sometimes said as words of advice as much as they carry a relevance that usually survives the proof of time, regardless of when they are being said.
The main difference between an aphorism and a quotation is that an aphorism is a concise and often original statement of wisdom or truth, while a quotation is a verbatim excerpt from a source.
Aphorisms tend to be maxims that carry moral truths or principles.
Quotes are statements or passages taken directly from a text, speech, or work of literature and repeated or cited by someone else.
Thus, some quotations can carry the power of an aphorism, but aphorisms are not simply quotes.
Let’s dive deeper into them.
2.2 Wisdom VS Intelligence
And the nature of knowledge.
Ancient Greece had two distinct groups of thinkers, the Sophists and the philosophers. They held different views and played different roles in the intellectual and educational landscape of their time.
Sophists were usually paid to teach practical skills, and their fees could vary depending on the reputation and legacy of their student’s family. They were professional educators who offered instruction in various subjects, including rhetoric, argumentation, and public speaking. Sophists were very criticized for their moral skepticism. While they emphasized the art of persuasion and argued that one could make a stronger case for any position through persuasive rhetoric, philosophers were more concerned with seeking objective and universal truths. They aimed to discover and articulate absolute principles governing the natural world and human existence.
The term "sophism" is often used in a negative or pejorative sense today due to its historical association. It means a thought or rhetoric that seeks to mislead, presented with apparent logic and sense, but with contradictory foundations and with the intention of deceiving.
So while philosophers were dedicated to questioning the nature of reality and promoting free thinking so that they could unfold the mysteries of life, sophists were being paid in order to teach people how to be clever.
Believe it or not, these two approaches to knowledge say a lot about how we can always question, study and learn - but sometimes, with completely different outcomes.
In grammar, intelligence, wisdom and cleverness are similar concepts, but through the right lenses, we can identify some key differences that will help us better understand where aphorisms truly come from.
Is situation-specific and refers to a quick ability to think and solve problems, often through creative or unconventional means, while considering the context. It may involve finding clever shortcuts or solutions in specific situations, even if they are not always morally or ethically sound.
Primarily relates to cognitive abilities, such as reasoning, problem-solving, learning, and adaptability. It regards our intellectual capacity to store and share knowledge but doesn’t represent our capacity to truly apply it.
Encompasses a broader and deeper understanding of life, including ethical and moral aspects. It involves the ability to make sound judgments, consider long-term consequences, collective sense, and navigate complex life situations, whether it is related to work, relationships or the many different adversities of life. Wisdom can only truly come from real-life experience, empathy and a true synthesis of knowledge.
Thus, aphorisms are words of wisdom that somehow encompass so many aspects of life or such profound truths that, most of the time, they are not associated with an author.
Think about the following African proverb, which could very well be considered an aphorism for being concise and meaningful:
When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.
Actions speak louder than words.
We could also consider this sentence from Yoda in Star Wars as an aphorism:
There is do, or do not. There is no try.
Aphorisms, then, tend to carry the punch of a thousand lessons in very few words, but how can one possibly write an aphorism?
2.3 Aphoristic Writing
A recipe for philosophical thinking (and writing).
Philosophers like David Hume and Friedrich Nietzsche left us a legacy of profound philosophical investigations that are still very relevant for society in the times we live in.
The first thing that people who never read a philosophy book notice in their writing is that it follows a very different structure when compared to fiction or other types of books.
Most philosophers write in an aphoristic style with numbered paragraphs - characterized by the use of concise statements to convey profound insights, philosophical principles, or reflections. Philosophers, essayists, and writers sometimes adopt this style to present their ideas in a condensed and impactful manner.
I will illustrate an example taken from a Hume’s book below.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
David Hume, Section III - The association of ideas. Page 29, Editora Lafonte.
 Since man is a rational being, he continually seeks happiness, which he hopes to attain in order to satisfy some passion or affection. Rarely does he act, speak, or think without purpose or intention. There is always some objective in view, even though the means he chooses to achieve it may sometimes be improper. He never loses sight of his goal, nor does he squander his thoughts or reflections when he does not expect to derive any satisfaction from them.
 In all works of genius, it is necessary for the author to have some plan or purpose. Although he may be diverted from this plan by his intense thinking, as in an ode, or may neglect it carelessly, as in an epistle or an essay, some end or intention must appear in his initial composition, if not in the complete composition of the work. A work without a design more closely resembles the extravagances of a madman than the sober efforts of genius and wisdom.
 It follows, as this rule admits of no exception, that in narrative compositions, the events or acts that the writer relates must be connected by some link or bond. They must be linked to one another in the imagination and form a kind of unity that can place them within a single plan, from a single point of view, and can be the object and end of the author in his initial endeavour
We can perceive that the goal is to pack a linearity of thoughts that connect to each other so that we can navigate through the author’s reasoning, which is not only defended by rational arguments but also relevant to the theme that the chapter proposes.
Within these deep investigations towards answers and absolute truths for different topics, profoundly meaningful sentences or even theories surge, as in, for example, the Hume’s Guillotine or his famous sentence: “Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them."
And so, aphorisms can be either a byproduct of intense philosophical investigations or a result of common and profoundly relevant wisdom spread by older generations of society in conversations and dialogues.
2.4 The Condition of Nature
Aphoristic class in practice.
I have some drafts for my first philosophy book, where I have experimented with this format, I will share it below with the goal of showing my process and result!
Investigating the condition, from the perspective of the state of nature, primarily involves questioning the essence of birth because, with its deepest roots in the term "natura," derived from the verb "to be born", the word nature pertains to that which preserves the origin and intrinsic essence of what is being investigated.
Investigating the root of roots thus becomes a task that can only begin in the same way it ends, not with a presumption about facts, but with the facts of any and all presumptions.
For “Worldview” is the concept that wears all the fundamental aspects of the lens through which a person aims to see; behave toward; and understand - the world. But it always develops as a unique perspective even though, at its foundation, it only comes into existence thanks to biological, chemical, and organic processes shared by all living beings, including those who are not actually conscious of their own existence.
Therefore, among the details of coming into existence and the larger details of actually performing the act of existence, colossal atoms of disparity are found where, on one side, those who navigate the process of merely existing passively end up becoming a result of a context, while on the other side, those who embrace the idea of existing actively transform the context for the sake of the result itself.
However, transforming a context involves what is the true separator of the two investigated polarities, being this divider, in essence, the level of responsibility that someone is capable of accepting as a condition for applying the act of existence because, just as the birth of consciousness is not an entirely calculable effort, acting in favour of existence couldn't be any different.
For the act of calculation implies taking measures or determining patterns and consistencies within a system to make decisions that deliver expected or predicted results.
However, the act of foreseeing, estimating, or just imagining is far from the act of actually and willingly existing because a projection is a motion in the space of consciousness that can serve merely as an illusion or, in some cases, become a catalyst for real action.
Projecting a path then becomes, in part, the process and act of walking, while, in contrast, treading a movement toward a direction without the proper pavement is carried out entirely as the act of walking, even without the safeguard of any true estimate of what can be generated as a result.
Building on this, it is established that action and thought can work in harmony but can also become forces that cancel each other out with inertia. It becomes necessary to consider the importance of the aspect of oscillation, for one cannot live solely on thought, and one cannot truly exist solely on action.
For only acting can lead to unwanted transformations.
While only thinking does not generate any transformation.
Finally, finding the root of a paradox within the subject, we can now attempt a surgical incision with the goal of neutralizing this knot that tends to hinder the necessary step to be taken out of the comfort zone, where the source of true evolution and development of one's character resides.
Because character, like everything we have explored up to this point, is an aspect of human nature, and humans possess a nature that tends to extract more than deposit to be able to exist.
We then retrieve, as a tool for the next stage of this investigation, the Eastern concept of Taoism's space, because to exist, involves the act of occupying a space, while non-action refers to allowing things to move and exist in the available space.
So, is occupying or conquering a space an act against the order of nature since empty space is essential to allow the natural flow of things? Or could the simple act of being born already be considered a disturbance of said natural order in resounding reality?
On one hand, breathing, thinking, and occupying a space are aspects of a nature that occupy a context on a much larger scale, while on the other hand, breathing in magnitude, thinking in magnitude, and occupying a space in magnitude may refer to the same disturbance of the natural order of things originating from the simple act of coming into existence, but on different scales.
For example, if being born in a specific place, at a specific moment, and with a specific origin granted someone all the food (or space) in the world, what would become of the universe if not just one and only existence that has no more space to occupy, considering that it has already encompassed everything?
Similarly, if, for example, being born in the worst of places, at the worst of times, with the worst of origins, granted someone a completely null sum of all the food (or space) in the world, what would become of the universe if not a magnificent space to conquer, considering the potential to occupy every and all space?
If hundreds of hectares of uninhabited territory belong to nature before becoming the property of a state, what would the action of demarcating such space be if not the act of existence by rulers?
If hundreds of hectares of uninhabited territory belong to a state before becoming the property of a group of people, what would the action of acquiring this space be if not the act of existence by citizens?
If hundreds of hectares of populated territory belonged to a group of people before becoming an object of desire for a single person, what would the action of negotiating this space be if not the act of existence by a single person?
If hundreds of hectares that originated as natural territory end up as private territory, what can this lead us to conclude about the act of existence?
For a space that was previously unoccupied ended up being occupied by someone who couldn't truly make full use of such a dimension alone.
This conclusion says much about the human nature of accumulation but says little about the human method of expanding their own nature.
For occupying such a space implies taking responsibility for its true possession but does not always mean that the means used to achieve that sustain the weight of such responsibility.
Unlike the state of non-action, the state of action surpasses the act of assuming the consequences of what will be the result of an action.
To exist, then, becomes a constant exercise of trial and error but precludes in advance any agent who, out of fear of making a mistake, chooses not to act.
Similarly, and unlike the state of action, the state of non-action supplements a reality that completely escapes the control and even the desires of the agent, who, out of fear of making a mistake, chooses not to act.
Finally, when it comes to error or correctness, both action and non-action are inherent to these terms. For occupying a space implies subtracting something from somewhere to add it elsewhere. So, if spaces are to be occupied simply as a matter of the constant flow of the order of nature, not acting also means having to counteract in favour of one's own existence and space.
For spaces will be occupied, and not always in a way that is consistent with the true order of nature, as human nature involves subtracting to add, and such action does not always govern the constancy of an error for the agent in action.
Acting and not acting are separate in terms of responsibility. On one side, the lack of action by an agent results from a lack of desire, disposition, or commitment, while, on the other side, the execution of action results from preparation and the ability to take responsibility for transformations.
In conclusive reality, everything has its moment of action, as transformation and movement are as constant and natural as the planet that governs us and rotates in a continuous flow, taking along with it all its spaces and its plural nature.
Eppur si muove.
About the Author
Made in 1996. Born & Raised Brazillian. Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising and Communication. Adept to autodidactism. Curious Soul. Published Author. Founder of Sentient.
That’s me in a nutshell but you can learn more about Agency and myself on the About page!
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