Thursday, May 19, 2016


Hatred of Short Answers

Augustine, Letters 98.7-8 (to Boniface; tr. Marcus Dods):
Thereafter you add this sentence in conclusion: "To these questions I pray you to condescend to give me a short reply, not silencing me by the traditional authority of custom, but satisfying me by arguments addressed to my reason." [8] While reading this letter of yours over and over again, and pondering its contents so far as my limited time permitted, memory recalled to me my friend Nebridius, who, while he was a most diligent and eager student of difficult problems, especially in the department of Christian doctrine, had an extreme aversion to the giving of a short answer to a great question. If any one insisted upon this, he was exceedingly displeased; and if he was not prevented by respect for the age or rank of the person, he indignantly rebuked such a questioner by stern looks and words; for he considered him unworthy to be investigating matters such as these, who did not know how much both might be said and behoved to be said on a subject of great importance.

deinde scripta tua concludens, adiungis et dicis: 'ad istas ergo quaestiones peto breviter respondere digneris, ita ut non mihi de consuetudine praescribas, sed rationem reddas.' [8] his litteris tuis lectis et relectis et, quantum sinebant temporis angustiae, consideratis recordatus sum Nebridium amicum meum, qui cum esset rerum obscurarum ad doctrinam pietatis maxime pertinentium diligentissimus et acerrimus inquisitor, valde oderat de quaestione magna responsionem brevem. et quisquis hoc poposcisset, aegerrime ferebat eumque, si eius persona pateretur, vultu indignabundus et voce cohibebat indignum deputans, qui talia quaereret, cum, de re tanta quam multa dici possent deberentque, nesciret.

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