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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(28) Or, aphoristically, there is no single cause for war, except the single cause.
When Professor John Figgis aphoristically remarked that "political liberty is the residuary legatee of ecclesiastical animosities," he expressed one half of the truth.
Some aphoristically take a moment of nature, using only images and shunning abstraction, to give the metaphysics of life on earth and of eternity:
`There is no socialism after liberation, socialism is the process through which liberation is won.'[16] In this light, his writing, with its polemical charge, its cut and thrust, its passion and intensity (anger and romanticism, sarcasm and sentiment), its liking for what Brecht called plumpes denken (literally, `plump thinking', thinking in slogan form, aphoristically: `New Times is Thatcherism in drag',[17] `The microprocessor is to the new industrial revolution what steam and electricity were to the old'[18]), must be thought about in terms of the production of liberation theory.
Butler's contention, that the "workingman is a man, and the equal of the capitalist" (80) illustrates aphoristically the key dimension of the dilemma.
He identifies himself aphoristically as the Prince of Death, as old as he is wise: "Yo soy viejo como la muerte y sabio como el desengano" (I am as old as death and as wise as the disillusioned; 87).
As Craib aphoristically comments, this is akin to 'throwing a sort of intellectual tantrum: because if I can't have it all, then I won't have any of it' (1992: 249).
Despite his cool skepticism, he could not help but turn things upside down: "In my esteem age is not estimable" or "The only pleasure of fame is that it paves the way to pleasure." Macaulay once said -- aphoristically -- that Byron divided his time "evenly between poetry, adultery and insurrection." Not surprisingly for a poet who in his Byronic hero created an early version of the poete maudit, Byron occasionally anticipates Baudclaire, as when he remarks in a letter to Lady Hardy that "I rather look upon love altogether as a sort of hostile transaction, very necessary to make or break matches, and keep the world going, but by no means a sinecure to the parties concerned."
By placing the Hsun Tzu at this point in the course, we can continue working within the tradition of Confucianism for another several weeks, this time by examining a text that is easier for students to grasp at first reading than the Analects, since it proceeds by connected reflection and systematic argument rather than aphoristically, and since it is explicitly concerned with causality.
(41.) The complex relationship between the subjective self and both familial and other influences and the language of a poem is addressed in similar terms in "In a Fit of My Own Vividness," in which the narrator notes aphoristically that "[i]t's hard to throw off what you're subject to." P.
To put this less aphoristically, what does New Nigeria or the Nigeria of our Dreams mean to you?
Separating the aphoristic method from the rhetoric of the essays, however, means that their proverbial quotations have to be viewed as mere exempla rather than aphorisms, despite the potential for proverbs to function aphoristically in other contexts.