aphorism

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aphorism

aphorism (ăfˈərĭzˌəm), short, pithy statement of an evident truth concerned with life or nature; distinguished from the axiom because its truth is not capable of scientific demonstration. Hippocrates was the first to use the term for his Aphorisms, briefly stated medical principles. Note his famous opening sentence: “Life is short, art is long, opportunity fleeting, experimenting dangerous, reasoning difficult.”
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Aphorism

 

a generalized, finalized, and profound idea of an author, expressed in laconic, refined form; it is distinguished by its apt expressiveness and obvious unexpectedness of judgment. Like a proverb, an aphorism does not prove or document but rather acts on the consciousness through the original formulation of a thought. The expressiveness of aphorisms increases with a decrease in the number of words; about three-fourths of all aphorisms consist of three to five words. Aphorisms are formed both in the context of scientific, philosophical, and artistic works and independently: “Mediocrity is more easily forgiven than talent” (E. Krotkii); “Each hears only what he understands” (J. W. Goethe); “Knowledge is power” (F. Bacon). The verbal fabric of aphorisms permits no changes.

REFERENCES

Uspenskii, L. “Korotko ob aforizmakh.” In the collection Aforizmy. Compiled by E. S. Raize. Leningrad, 1964.
Asemissen, H. U. “Notizen über den Aphorismus.” Trivium. [Zürich,] 1949, no. 2.

A. I. FIURSTENBERG

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.