Thoughts & Quotes of

the letter and you will be brought to the beginning of the thoughts beginning with that letter.


Ratio Decidendi
Ratio decidendi is a Latin expression, well known by lawyers and judges. It is the rationale of judgment; a principle underlying and determining a judicial decision. J. W. Salmond, New Zealand's best known jurist, the author of classic texts on jurisprudence and the law of Torts, wrote: " A precedent, therefore, is a judicial decision which contains in itself a principle. The underlying principle which thus forms its authoritative element is often termed the ratio decidendi." (1902, Jurisprudence, viii, 176.)
¶ "To me reading is a rest as to other people conversation or a game of cards. ... I would sooner read a time-table or a catalogue than nothing at all. ... I have spent many delightful hours poring over the price list of the Army and Navy stores, the lists of second-hand booksellers and the A.B.C. ... They are much more entertaining than half the novels that are written." (Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up.)
¶ "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)
¶ "Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man." (Francis Bacon)
¶ "It is the Reader of this sort [a person who is continually taking notes] who underlines with thick pencil marks the book that he reads [his books], and comments down the side of the page on misprints, topographical inaccuracies and foolish philosophies."
§ See blupete's commentary of -- June 25th, 2000.
¶ "We begin to think and to act from reason and from nature alone." (Edmund Burke)
¶ "Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them." (David Hume)
¶ "Necessity calls, fear urges, reason exhorts." (David Hume)
¶ "I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical ... [As for the rebels] The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them." (Thomas Jefferson)
¶ "Experience informs us that the first defense of weak minds is to recriminate." (Coleridge)
¶ "The only referendum which will prove of the slightest value to the people will be the referendum accompanied by the Initiative; in other words, the right of the people (as expressed by a certain number of electors) to determine on what subjects they shall vote. Such a right would indeed be of incalculable value; but before it is likely to be obtained the people must develop a sufficiently alert political sense to make their initiative a reality." [Belloc and Chesterton, The Party System (London: Stephen Swift, 1911).]
¶ "It is certainly an atmosphere [in the House of Parliament] in which it is much easier not to bother, and a man who partly wants reform, but partly also good fellowship, and a sense of ease in his surroundings, will find after a very few months that the proportion of his desire for reform to his other desires has sunk to zero." [Belloc and Chesterton, The Party System (London: Stephen Swift, 1911).]
¶ "'Leave well alone' should therefore be a standing motto, so far as primary institutions are concerned, with every patriotic man. Unless you have some clear alternative capable of giving as good a result as the institution you propose to overthrow, then an attack upon it is anarchic and profoundly unwise." (Belloc and Chesterton, The Party System).]
¶ "Every reform, however necessary, will by weak minds be carried to an excess, that itself will need reforming." (Coleridge)
¶ "Reformers, not so well able to express as to think, would have had an answer to all questions relating to their views." (Cobbett)
¶ "Social reformers are missionaries who, in their zeal to lay about them, do not scruple to seize any weapon that they can lay their hands on; they would grab a crucifix to beat a dog. The dog is well beaten, no doubt ... but note the condition of the crucifix." (Ambrose Bierce, as quoted in O'Connor's biography, p. 161.)
¶ "All the men in the world should come and bring their greivances together, of body, mind, fortune, sores, ulcers, madness, elipepsies, agues, and all those common calamities of beggary, want, servitude, imprisonment, and lay them on a heap to be equally divided, wouldst thou share alike, and take thy portion, or be as thou art? Without question thou wouldst be as thou art." (Aristotle.)
¶ Regret, The Maddening Poison: "For my [Bertrand Russell] part, I am constructing a mental cloister, in which my inner soul is to dwell in peace, while an outer simulacrum goes forth to meet the world. In this inner sanctuary I sit and think spectral thoughts. Yesterday, talking on the terrace, the ghosts of all former occasions there rose and walked before me in solemn procession -- all dead, with their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows, their aspirations and their golden youth -- gone, gone into the great limbo of human folly. And as I talked, I felt myself and the others already faded into the Past and all seemed very small -- struggles, pains, everything, mere fatuity, noise and fury signifying nothing. And so calm is achieved, and Fate's thunders become mere nursery-tales to frighten children."
§ See blupete's commentary of -- May 6th, 2001.
§ See blupete's commentary of -- April, 1998.
¶ Religion and political stability:
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." (Washington's Farewell Address, 1796.)
¶ Some people, particularly Catholics, are in need of a firmer support than they can find in the independent conclusions of their own judgment.
¶ "... religion which I hold to be profoundly immoral -- that it is our duty to bow down in worship before a Being whose moral attributes are affirmed to be unknowable by us ..." (John Stuart Mill, Autobiography.)
¶ "The idea of immortality, an immortality of compensations and consolation, was eagerly received by a world in which the common life was hopelessly wretched." (H. G. Wells.)
¶ Most religions, these days, are personal religions. While the older religions were not personal but rather they were social.
¶ "There is the Voltaire tradition, which makes fun of the whole thing [religion] from a common-sense, semi-historical, semi-literary point of view ... Then there is the scientific, Darwin-Huxley attitude, which seems to me perfectly true, and quite fatal, if rightly carried out, to all the usual arguments for religion. ... Then there are the philosophers, like Bradley, who keep a shadow of religion, too little for comfort, but quite enough to ruin their systems intellectually." (Bertrand Russell.)
¶ "Our religion is made to extirpate vices; it covers them, fosters them, incites them." (Montaigne)
¶ "There is no hostility that excels Christian hostility." [Montaigne: he was to witness the religious civil wars between Catholics and Protestants which lasted intermittently from 1562 to 1594.].")
¶ A Little Religion can, at Times, Help
"The good which a single religious captain may do can hardly be calculated. In the first place, as I have said, a kinder state of feeling exists on board the ship. There is no profanity allowed; and the men are not called by any opprobrious names, which is a great thing with sailors. The Sabbath is observed. This gives the men a day of rest, even if they pass it in no other way. Such a captain, too, will not allow a sailor on board his ship to remain unable to read his Bible and the books given to him; and will usually instruct a good deal of time on his hands, which he can easily employ in such a manner. He will also have regular religious services; and, in fact, by the power of his example, and, where it can judiciously be done, by the exercise of his authority, will give a character to the ship and all on board. In foreign ports, a ship is known by her captain; for, there being no general rules in the merchant service, each master may adopt a plan of his own. It is to be remembered, too, that there are, in most ships, boys of a tender age, whose characters for life are forming, as well as old men, whose lives must be drawing toward a close. The greater part of sailors die at sea; and when they find their end approaching, if it does not, as is often the case, come without warning, they cannot, as on shore, send for a clergyman, or some religious friend, to speak to them of that hope in a Saviour, which they have neglected, if not despised, through life; but if the little hull does not contain such a one within its compass, they must be left without human aid in their great extremity. When such commanders and such ships, as I have just described, shall become more numerous, the hope of the friends of seamen will be greatly strengthened; and it is encouraging to remember that the efforts among common sailors will soon raise up such a class; for those of them who are brought under these under these influences will inevitably be the ones to succeed to the places of trust and authority. If there is on earth an instance where a little leaven may leaven the whole lump, it is that of the religious shipmaster." (Dana's Two Years Before the Mast.)
§ See blupete's essay -- "On Religion."
Pity to build without a child or wife;
Why, you'll enjoy it only all your life:
Well, if the use be mine, does it concern me,
Whether the name belong to Pope or Vernon?
(Alexander Pope.)
¶ "The great revival of art and letters, under the influence of classical models, which began in Italy in the 14th century and continued during the 15th and 16th; also, the period during which this movement was in progress." (OED)
¶ "Throughout the twelfth century there were many signs that the European intelligence was recovering courage and leisure, and preparing to take up again the intellectual enterprises of the first Greek scientific enquiries and such speculations as those of the Italian Lucretius. The causes of this revival were many and complex. The suppression of private war, the higher standards of comfort and security that followed the crusades, and the stimulation of men's minds by the experiences of these expeditions were no doubt necessary preliminary conditions. Trade was reviving; cities were recovering ease and safety; the standard of education was arising in the church and spreading among laymen. The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were a period of growing, independent or quasi-independent cities; Venice, Florence, Genoa, Lisbon, Paris, Bruges, London, Antwerp, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Novgorod, Wisby and Bergen for example. They were all trading cities with many travellers, and where men trade and travel they talk and think. The polemics of the Popes and princes, the conspicuous savagery and wickedness of the persecution of heretics, were exciting men to doubt the authority of the church and question and discuss fundamental things." (H. G. Wells.)
¶ "For a time the scientific process which began so brilliantly in Greece and Alexandria was interrupted. The raids of the Teutonic barbarians, the westward drive of the Mongolian peoples, convulsive religious reconstruction and great pestilences put enormous strains upon political and social order. When civilization emerged again from this phase of conflict and confusion, slavery was no longer the basis of economic life; and the first paper-mills were preparing a new medium for collective information and co-operation in printed matter. Gradually at this point and that, the search for knowledge, the systematic scientific process, was resumed.
And now from the sixteenth century onward, as an inevitable by-product of systematic thought, appeared a steadily increasing series of inventions and devices affecting the intercommunication and interaction of men with one another. ..." (H. G. Wells.)
§ See subject heading, "Renaissance" in blupete's essay -- "Philosophy."
¶ "Two Principles in human nature reign; Self-love, to urge, and Reason, to restrain." (Pope's, Essay On Man.)
¶ "It is the wound inflicted upon our self-love, not the stain upon the character of the thoughtless offender, that calls for condign punishment. Crimes, vices may go unchecked or unnoticed; but it is the laughing at our weaknesses, or thwarting our humours, that is never to be forgotten. It is not the errors of others, but our own miscalculations, on which we wreak our lasting vengeance. It is ourselves that we cannot forgive." (William Hazlitt, "On Will Making.")
¶ Revolutions do not start in bomb factories. They start in inkpots.
¶ "It [revolution] breaks down not because men are incapable of the sudden effort that can 'arise and will,' but rather because to render its effect permanent, it must proceed to regiment the converts in organised associations, which speedily develop all the evils that have ruined the despotism it set out to overthrow." [Brailsford, Shelley, Godwin, and Their Circle (New York: Holt, nd [1913?]) pp. 237-8.]
Joseph Conrad was to give us his thoughts on revolution, through one of his characters in Under Western Eyes:
"'Of course the will must be awakened, inspired, concentrated,' she went on. 'That is the true task of real agitators. One has got to give up one's life to it. The degradation of servitude, the absolutist lies must be uprooted and swept out. Reform is impossible. There is nothing to reform. There is no legality, there are no institutions. There are only arbitrary decrees. There is only a handful of cruel—perhaps blind—officials against a nation.' ...
'I tell you what,' said Miss Haldin, after a moment of reflection. 'I believe that you hate revolution; you fancy it's not quite honest. You belong to a people which has made a bargain with fate and wouldn't like to be rude to it. But we have made no bargain. It was never offered to us -— so much liberty for so much hard cash. You shrink from the idea of revolutionary action for those you think well of as if it were something -— how shall I say it -— not quite decent.' ...
She was a little flushed under the eyes.
'There is a way of looking on which is valuable I have felt less lonely because of it. It's difficult to explain.'
'Really? Well, I too have felt less lonely. That's easy to explain, though. But it won't go on much longer. The last thing I want to tell you is this: in a real revolution —- not a simple dynastic change or a mere reform of institutions -— in a real revolution the best characters do not come to the front. A violent revolution falls into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and of tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual failures of the time. Such are the chiefs and the leaders. You will notice that I have left out the mere rogues. The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane, and devoted natures; the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movement -— but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims: the victims of disgust, of disenchantment -— often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured -— that is the definition of revolutionary success. There have been in every revolution hearts broken by such successes. But enough of that. My meaning is that I don't want you to be a victim.'
'If I could believe all you have said I still wouldn't think of myself,' protested Miss Haldin. 'I would take liberty from any hand as a hungry man would snatch at a piece of bread. The true progress must begin after. And for that the right men shall be found. They are already amongst us. One comes upon them in their obscurity, unknown, preparing themselves....'"
¶ "Your mob can do this [pulling down and destroying social institutions] as well at least as your assemblies. The shallowest understanding, the rudest hand is more than equal to that task. Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years. The errors and defects of old establishments are visible and palpable. It calls for little ability to point them out ... No difficulties occur in what has never been tried. Criticism is almost baffled in discovering the defects of what has not existed; and eager enthusiasm and cheating hope have all the wide field of imagination in which they may expatiate with little or no opposition." (Edmund Burke)
¶ "... our tranquillity has been clouded by the disorders in France ... the revolution, or rather the dissolution of the kingdom, has been heard and felt in the adjacent lands. I beg leave to subscribe my assent to Mr. Burke's creed on the revolution of France. I admire his eloquence, I approve his politics, I adore his chivalry, and I can almost excuse his reverence for church establishments. [However, we] should mutually acknowledge the danger of exposing an old superstition [viz. we are all equal] to the contempt of the blind and fanatic multitude. ... The fanatic missionaries of sedition have scattered the seeds of discontent in our cities and villages ... [the people are] infected with the Gallic frenzy, the wild theories of equal and boundless freedom." (Gibbon, Autobio.)
¶ "A populace never rebels from passion for attack, but from impatience of suffering." (Edmund Burke)
¶ "[Re: French Revolution] I thought that ten thousand swords would have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her [Marie Antoinette] with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded." (Edmund Burke)
¶ "The Revolution which is resorted to for a title, on their system, wants a title itself." (Edmund Burke)
¶ "A revolution will be the very last resource of the thinking and the good." (Edmund Burke)
¶ "... all that wise men ever aim at is to keep things from coming to the worst. Those who expect perfect reformations, either deceive or are deceived miserably." (Edmund Burke)
¶ "Who would be free themselves must strike the blow." (Lord Byron, 1824)
¶ "The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them." (Thomas Hobbes)
§ See blupete's commentary of -- March 26th, 2000.
¶ [A rich man is one] whose income is superior to his expense, and his expense equal to his wishes. (Gibbon, Autobio.)
§ See blupete's commentary of -- September 20th, 1998.
¶ "The individual is not accountable to society for his actions, insofar as these concern the interests of no person but himself." (Mill)
§ See blupete's commentary of -- September 17th, 2000.
¶ "When we begin to realize how essentially this great Latin and Greek-speaking Roman Empire of the first two centuries A.D. was a slave state and how small was the minority who had any pride or freedom in their lives, we lay our hands on the clues to its decay and collapse. There was little of what we should call family life, few homes of temperate living and active thought and study; schools and colleges were few and far between. The free will and the free mind were nowhere to be found. The great roads, the ruins of splendid buildings, the tradition of law and power it left for the astonishment of succeeding generations must not conceal from us that all its outer splendour was built upon thwarted wills, stifled intelligence, and crippled and perverted desires. And even the minority who lorded it over that wide realm of subjugation and of restraint and forced labour were uneasy and unhappy in their souls; art and literature, science and philosophy, which are the fruits of free and happy minds, waned in that atmosphere. There was much copying and imitation, an abundance of artistic artificers, much slavish pedantry among the servile men of learning, but the whole Roman empire in four centuries produced nothing to set beside the bold and noble intellectual activities of the comparatively little city of Athens during its one century of greatness. Athens decayed under the Roman sceptre. The science of Alexandria decayed. The spirit of man, it seemed, was decaying in those days." (H. G. Wells.)
¶ "Why had the Roman Empire grown and why had it so completely decayed? It grew because at first the idea of citizenship held it together. Throughout the days of the expanding republic, and even into the days of the early empire there remained a great number of men conscious of Roman citizenship, feeling it a privilege and an obligation to be a Roman citizen, confident of their rights under the Roman law and willing to make sacrifices in the name of Rome. The prestige of Rome as of something just and great and law-up-holding spread far beyond the Roman boundaries. But even as early as the Punic wars the sense of citizenship was being undermined by the growth of wealth and slavery. Citizenship spread indeed but not the idea of citizenship.
The Roman Empire was after all a very primitive organization; it did not educate, did not explain itself to its increasing multitudes of citizens, did not invite their co-operation in its decisions. There was no network of schools to ensure a common understanding, no distribution of news to sustain collective activity. The adventurers who struggled for power from the days of Marius and Sulla onward had no idea of creating and calling in public opinion upon the imperial affairs. The spirit of citizenship died of starvation and no one observed it die. All empires, all states, all organizations of human society are, in the ultimate, things of understanding and will. There remained no will for the Roman Empire in the World and so it came to an end." (H. G. Wells.)
¶ "There's nought, no doubt, so much the spirit calms
As rum and true religion." (Lord Byron, 1824)




2012 (2018)

Peter Landry