An aphorism is defined as "a short, pithy statement containing a truth of general import." In the introduction to this volume John Gross offers several distinguishing characteristics of the aphorism. Though the term `maxim' is often used as its synonym, an aphorism is considered more speculative, and sometimes more subversive than a maxim. While aphorisms offer insights and wisdom, they differ from proverbs in that they are not apocryphal. And while they are universal, they also generally bear the personal mark of the author.
Goethe, Nietzsche, Chekhov, Voltaire, Spinoza, Wilde, Yeats, James...but a few of the authors included in this book.
To give a flavor of the kinds of entries, consider these from the chapter on religion.
"Probably no invention came more easily to man than Heaven."
"Heathen, n. A benighted creature who has the folly to worship something that he can see and feel."
"If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated."
And if you don't like those, there are fifty other chapters to choose from.
In 'The Oxford Book of Aphorisms', John Gross selects a wide variety of aphorisms that are placed into 58 categories, such as: Mankind, Life, Self-Doubt, Friends & Foes, Happiness & Sorrow, Illusion & Reality, Death, and The Afterlife.
Each category usually runs under 10 pages or so of collected aphorisms. This facilitates ease of research when seeking views on a particular topic.
In the chapter on aphorisms, we find: 'A perfectly healthy sentence is extremely rare'. Indeed, this is a rare book.
"Even while a thing is in the act of coming into existence, some part of it has already ceased to be." -Marcus Aurelius, 2nd Century
"Religions are kept alive by heresies, which are really sudden explosions of faith." -Gerald Brenan
"The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship." -Blake
"Until death, it is all life." -Cervantes
"Liberty is the right to do what the law permits." -Montesquieu
"Oh well, no matter what happens, there's always death." -Napoleon<P This book in all of its logicalness is a great moral teacher and guide to inquisitve thinking- more than I can say about certain books. I shall depart with one final quote, which I feel is apt in answering my earlier question: "God's contempt for human minds is evidenced by miracles. He judges them unworthy of being drawn to Him by other means than those of stupefaction and the crudest modes of sesnsibility." -Valery