Saturday, July 05, 2014


The Zeitgeist

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Sermon 7, in The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, Vol. 14: Sermons, edd. ‎Jean H. Hagstrum and ‎James Gray (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978), p. 77:
The prevailing spirit of the present age seems to be the spirit of scepticism and captiousness, of suspicion and distrust, a contempt of all authority, and a presumptuous confidence in private judgement; a dislike of all established forms, merely because they are established, and of old paths, because they are old.
Id., p. 82:
A contempt of the monuments, and the wisdom of antiquity, may justly be reckoned one of the reigning follies of these days, to which pride and idleness have equally contributed. The study of antiquity is laborious, and to despise what we cannot, or will not understand, is a much more expeditious way to reputation. Part of the disesteem into which their writings are now fallen may indeed be ascribed to that exorbitant degree of veneration in which they were once held by blindness and superstition. But there is a mean betwixt idolatry and insult, between weak credulity and total disbelief. The ancients are not infallible, nor are their decisions to be received without examination, but they are at least the determinations of men equally desirous with ourselves of discovering truth, and who had, in some cases, better opportunities than we now have.

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