Reference > Quotations > S. Austin Allibone, comp. > Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay
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S. Austin Allibone, comp.  Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay.  1880.
 
Opinion
 
  It is sometimes pleasant enough to consider the different notions which different persons have of the same thing.
Joseph Addison.    
  1
 
  To be distracted with many opinions, makes men to be of the last impression, and full of change.
Francis Bacon.    
  2
 
  Opinion rides upon the neck of reason; and men are happy, wise, or learned, according as that empress shall set them down in the register of reputation. However, weigh not thyself in the scales of thy own opinion, but let the judgment of the judicious be the standard of thy merit.
Sir Thomas Browne: Chris. Morals, Pt. II., viii.    
  3
 
  The degree of estimation in which any profession is held becomes the standard of the estimation in which the professors hold themselves.
Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.    
  4
 
  No liberal man would impute a charge of unsteadiness to another for having changed his opinion.
Cicero.    
  5
 
  Opinion is, when the assent of the understanding is so far gained by evidence of probability that it rather inclines to one persuasion than to another, yet not altogether without a mixture of uncertainty or doubting.
Sir Matthew Hale.    
  6
 
  But the circumstances under which we ponder over any piece of information may make a vast difference in our estimate of the said piece of information—especially if it come to us through that doubtful and convertible medium which we call historic lore. According as we are sick, in love, and have not dined, or as we are stout, heart-whole, and in that replenished mood which Shakespeare says inclines great men to grant favours—I mean full of a good dinner (barring indigestion)—according, I say, as we are thus depressed or cheered, we are apt to look upon the dark or bright side of things, to go even beyond the gloomy decisions of the historian, or to take up the cudgel in defence of the very man whom he loads with obloquy—in short, to doubt a Trajan, or to acquit a Nero.  7
  That I am correct in these views is proved by the fact that both the best and the worst of historic personages have never wanted either a detractor or an apologist; and how account for such a phenomenon otherwise than by supposing, in each case, the judge to have been biased either ab extra or ad intra? And what bias is so great as that of a man’s own mood and temper, especially if lashed up and exasperated by Circumstance—that unspiritual god?
Household Words.    
  8
 
  Opinion is a light, vain, crude, and imperfect thing, settled in the imagination, but never arriving at the understanding, there to obtain the tincture of reason.
Ben Jonson.    
  9
 
  Men indulge those opinions and practices that favour their pretensions.
Roger L’Estrange.    
  10
 
  Where the mind does not perceive probable connection, there men’s opinions are the effects of chance and hazard; of a mind floating at all adventures, without choice and without direction.
John Locke.    
  11
 
  Now, of these objects there is none which men in general seem to desire more than the good opinion of others. The hatred and contempt of the public are generally felt to be intolerable. It is probable that our regard for the sentiments of our fellow-creatures springs, by association, from a sense of their ability to hurt or to serve us. But, be this as it may, it is notorious that, when the habit of mind of which we speak has once been formed, men feel extremely solicitous about the opinions of those by whom it is most improbable, nay, absolutely impossible, that they should ever be in the slightest degree injured or benefited. The desire of posthumous fame and the dread of posthumous reproach and execration are feelings from the influence of which scarcely any man is perfectly free, and which in many men are powerful and constant motives of action.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Mill’s Essay on Government, March, 1829.    
  12
 
  The opinions of that class of the people who are below the middle rank are formed, and their minds are directed, by that intelligent, that virtuous rank, who come the most immediately in contact with them, who are in the constant habit of intimate communication with them, to whom they fly for advice and assistance in all their numerous difficulties, upon whom they feel an immediate and daily dependence in health and in sickness, in infancy and in old age, to whom their children look up as models for their imitation, whose opinions they hear daily repeated, and account it their honour to adopt. There can be no doubt that the middle rank, which gives to science, to art, and to legislation itself their most distinguished ornaments, and is the chief source of all that has exalted and refined human nature, is that portion of the community, of which, if the basis of representation were ever so far extended, the opinion would ultimately decide. Of the people beneath them, a vast majority would be sure to be guided by their advice and example.
James Mill: Essay on Government, 1828.    
  13
 
  Pains from the moral source are the pains derived from the unfavourable sentiments of mankind…. These pains are capable of rising to a height with which hardly any other pains incident to our nature can be compared. There is a certain degree of unfavourableness in the sentiments of his fellow-creatures, under which hardly any man, not below the standard of humanity, can endure to live.  14
  The importance of this powerful agency, for the prevention of injurious acts, is too obvious to need to be illustrated. If sufficiently at command, it would almost supersede the use of other means.  15
 
 
  To know how to direct the unfavourable sentiments of mankind, it is necessary to know in as complete, that is, in as comprehensive, a way as possible, what it is which gives them birth. Without entering into the metaphysics of the question, it is a sufficient practical answer, for the present purpose, to say that the unfavourable sentiments of man are excited by everything which hurts them.
James Mill: Essay on Government.    
  16
 
  Men (says an ancient Greek sentence) are tormented with the opinions they have of things, and not by the things themselves. It were a great victory obtain’d for the relief of our miserable human condition could this proposition be established for certain, and true throughout. For if evils have no admission into us but by the judgment we ourselves make of them, it should seem that it is then in our power to despise them, or to turn them to good. If things surrender themselves to our mercy, why do we not convert and accommodate them to our advantage?
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. xl.    
  17
 
  A man who thinks he is guarding himself against prejudices by resisting the authority of others, leaves open every avenue to singularity, vanity, self-conceit, obstinacy, and many other vices, all tending to warp the judgment and prevent the natural operation of his faculties. We are not, indeed, satisfied with our own opinions, whatever we may pretend, till they are satisfied and confirmed by suffrage of the rest of mankind. We dispute and wrangle forever; we endeavour to get men to come to us when we do not go to them.
Sir Joshua Reynolds.    
  18
 
  When men first take up an opinion, and then afterwards seek for reasons for it, they must be contented with such as the absurdity of it will afford.
Robert South.    
  19
 
  Opinions, like fashions, always descend from those of quality to the middle sort; and thence to the vulgar, where they are dropped and vanish.
Jonathan Swift.    
  20
 
  That was excellently observed, says I, when I read a passage in an author where his opinion agrees with mine.
Jonathan Swift.    
  21
 
  If a man would register all his opinions upon love, politics, religion, and learning, what a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions would appear at last!
Jonathan Swift.    
  22
 
  Our belief or disbelief of a thing does not alter the nature of the thing.
John Tillotson.    
  23
 
  Time wears out the fictions of opinion, and doth by degrees discover and unmask that fallacy of ungrounded persuasions; but confirms the dictates and sentiments of nature.
Bishop John Wilkins.    
  24
 
 
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