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a generalized, profound, laconic, and polished thought of a given author that expresses a rule of conduct or a basic logical or ethical principle by which people may be guided in their actions; for example: “When in doubt, come to the truth” (Cicero); “Avoid everything your conscience does not approve” (L. N. Tolstoy). Later on, the term “maxim” was understood in a broader sense and came to mean any wise saying.
The maxims of the French moralist writers La Rochefoucauld (Memoirs and Maxims; Russian translation, 1971), La Bruyere (Characters, or The Mores of the Present Age; Russian translation, 1964), and Vauvenargues (Complete Collected Works [in Russian], vol. 2, 1968), and the German thinkers J. W. Goethe (Maxims and Reflections, 1953) and G. K. Lichtenberg (Aphorisms; Russian translation, 1965), all represent a brilliant form of philosophical statement.
Many maxims are contained in the notebooks of the Russian historian V. O. Kliuchevskii (Letters, Diaries, Aphorisms and Thoughts About History, 1968). Parodic maxims, at times concealing practical wisdom under a mask of irony, were created by Koz’ma Prutkov (Complete Collected Works, 1965). Well-known contemporary maxims include those of the Polish writer S. J. Lec (Unkempt Thoughts, 1968) and the Soviet writer Emil’ Krotkii (Excerpts From an Unwritten Work, 1966).
REFERENCESWilpert, G. Sachwörterbuch der Literatur, 4th ed. Stuttgart, 1964.
Encyclopédic Internationale “Focus,” vol. 3. Paris, 1964. Page 2179.
A. I. FIURSTENBERG