The Testimony Of Language

The words and syntax of a speaker are as revelatory of identity as a fingerprint, a ballistics test, and a DNA sample are to a criminologist.  The critical inquiries of the scholar, or the practiced eye of the native speaker, will as readily deduce the origin of a written text from an examination of its lexicon and constructions, as might a forensics scientist derive a wealth of information from a study of a fragment of bone, a scrap of tissue, or a tuft of hair.  While this truth has not often been appreciated, it remains one that has been consistently demonstrated.  We will discuss three examples that illustrate our proposition.

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The Four Pillars Of Self-Confidence

So much has been written on the subject of self-confidence that a few more observations are unlikely to draw an objection.  It seems to me that self-confidence rests on four pillars:  (1) one must accurately and honestly assess one’s value; (2) self-confidence should never veer into the territory of arrogance or insolence; (3) self-confidence must be buttressed by demonstrated experience; and (4) while all can improve in self-confidence, it is essentially a character trait that comes easier to some than to others.

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The Stirrings Of Conscience

The etymologists tell us that the word conscience is derived from the Latin conscire, meaning to know well, or to have an intimate knowledge of something.  This verb could be used in two contexts:  conscire alii (to know something along with someone else), and conscire sibi (to know something with oneself only).  Time and modern usage has given “conscience” the meaning of an internal conviction, a mental recognition of something.

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Ibn Gabirol Discusses The Virtues

If we accept the premise that personal sufferings and misfortunes provide excellent grist for philosophy’s mill, then we must concede that Solomon Ibn Gabirol was provided with incomparable ingredients for speculative thought.  He was born to a prosperous family in Malaga, Spain around 1022.  Yet life wasted no time in dealing him cruel cards; his parents died when he was a child, making him an itinerant orphan.  He seems to have been stricken by a degenerative disease as a teenager, and this fact lodged in his breast an enduring sense of alienation and resentment; but like many other thinkers, he would find refuge from his pain by taking up the pen. 

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Pythagoras: An Introduction To His Life, School, And Ideas

Only one name in European history unites the realms of religion, mathematics, and philosophy, and that name is Pythagoras.  Yet it is this very achievement that so torments posterity when assessing his legacy.  Centuries of speculative accretions, hagiographic mythologizing, and the dubious testimonia of ancient authors have so obscured his original doctrines that the exasperated scholar must, at last, accept that fact and legend are in him inseparably woven.

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