Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday, March 3, 2013

On Truth and the Poet

It has an unhappy effect upon the human understanding and temper, for a man to be compelled in his gravest investigation of an argument, to consider, not what is true, but what is convenient. The lawyer never yet existed who has not boldly urged an objection which he knew to be fallacious, or endeavoured to pass off a weak reason for a strong one. Intellect is the greatest and most sacred of all endowments; and no man ever trifled with it, defending an action today which he had arraigned yesterday, or extenuating an offence on one occasion, which, soon after, he painted in the most atrocious colours, with absolute impunity. Above all, the poet, whose judgment should be clear, whose feelings should be uniform and sound, whose sense should be alive to every impression and hardened to none, who is the legislator of generations and the moral instructor of the world, ought never to have been a practising lawyer, or ought speedily to have quitted so dangerous an engagement.

William Godwin (born March 3, 1756)

Sins of Omission

If I were a duly licensed pardoner, I should have a number of nicely engraved indulgences for what are called sins of omission. Not that I should attempt to extenuate the graver sort. I should not hold out false hopes to thankless sons or indifferent husbands. To be followed by such riff-raff would spoil my trade with the better classes. I should not have anything in my wallet for the acrimonious critic, who brings a railing accusation against his neighbor, and omits to sign his name. Some omissions are unpardonable.

I should, at the beginning, confine my traffic to those sins which easily beset conscientious persons about half past two in the morning. We have warrant for thinking that the sleep of the just is refreshing. This is doubtless true of the completely just; but with the just man in the making it is frequently otherwise. There is a stage in his strenuous moral career which is conducive to insomnia.


Samuel McChord Crothers (1857-1927)

What Is a Good Character Today?

Let us be done with the notion that religion is confined to petty pieties and small constraints.  All too often men [and women] who have possessed these pieties have wrought great evil. ...  You cannot have a good character today and at the same time have a small mind and a little heart.  You cannot have a good character today and be merely a petty reformer.  A good character today is shaped by greatness – greatness in vision, greatness in courage, greatness in insight, greatness in purpose and devotion.

A. Powell Davies (1902-1957)

William Godwin (1756-1836)

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