S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
The excellence and force of a composition must always be imperfectly estimated from its effect on the minds of any, except we know the temper and character of those minds. The most powerful effects of poetry and music have been displayed, and perhaps still are displayed, where these arts are but in a very low and imperfect state. The rude hearer is affected by the principles which operate in these arts even in the rudest condition; and he is not skilful enough to perceive the defects. But as the arts advance towards their perfection, the science of criticism advances with equal pace, and the pleasure of judges is frequently interrupted by the faults which are discovered in the most finished compositions.
Edmund Burke: On the Sublime and Beautiful: Introduction, On Taste, 1756.
They who always labour can have no true judgment. You never give yourselves time to cool. You can never survey, from its proper point of sight, the work you have finished, before you decree its final execution. You can never plan the future by the past.
Edmund Burke: Letter to a Member of the Nat. Assembly, Jan. 19, 1791.
In eloquence, and even in poetry, which seems so much the lawful province of imagination, should imagination be ever so warm and redundant, yet unless a sound discriminating judgment likewise appear, it is not true poetry; no more than it would be painting if a man took the colours and brush of a painter and stained the paper or canvas with mere patches of colour. I can thus exhibit colours as well as he, but I cannot produce his forms, to which his colours are quite secondary.
The judgment being the leading power, if it be stored with lubricous opinions instead of clearly conceived truths, and peremptorily resolved in them, the practice will be as irregular as the conceptions.
If there might be added true art and learning, there would be as much difference in maturity of judgment between men therewith inured, and that which now men are, as between men that are now and innocents.
With gross and popular capacities nothing doth more prevail than unlimited generalities, because of their plainness at the first sight; nothing less, with men of exact judgment, because such rules are not safe to be trusted over far.
The faculty which God has given man to supply the want of certain knowledge is judgment, whereby the mind takes any proposition to be true or false without perceiving a demonstrative evidence in the proofs.
Every man is put under a necessity, by his constitution, as an intelligent being, to be determined by his own judgment what is best for him to do; else he would be under the determination of some other than himself, which is want of liberty.
Where the mind does not perceive connection, there mens opinions are not the product of judgment, but the effects of chance and hazard, of a mind floating at all adventures, without choice and without direction.
That our understandings may be free to examine, and reason unbiassed give its judgment, being that whereon a right direction of our conduct to true happiness depends: it is in this we should employ our chief care.
Whoever shall call to memory how many and how many times he has been mistaken in his own judgment, is he not a great fool if he does not ever after suspect it? When I find myself convincd by the reason of another of a false opinion, I do not so much learn what he has said to me that is new, and my own particular ignorance, that would be no great purchase, as I do in general my own debility, and the treachery of my understanding, from whence I extract the reformation of the whole mass. In all my other errors I do the same, and find from this rule great utility to life. I regard not the species and individual, as a stone that I have stumbled at; I learn to suspect my steps throughout, and am careful to place them right. To learn that a man has said or done a foolish thing, is a thing of nothing. A man must learn that he is nothing but fool;a much more ample and important instruction.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. cvii.
It behoves us always to bear in mind, that while actions are always to be judged by the immutable standard of right and wrong, the judgments which we pass upon men must be qualified by considerations of age, country, station, and other accidental circumstances; and it will then be found that he who is most charitable in his judgment is generally the least unjust.
There are a multitude of human actions which have so many complicated circumstances, aspects, and situations, with regard to time and place, persons and things, that it is impossible for any one to pass a right judgment concerning them without entering into most of these circumstances.