Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 2.XXXIII.

Full Text Chapter 2.XXXIII.

Chapter 2.XXXIII.

The gift of ratiocination and making syllogisms—I mean in man—for in superior classes of being, such as angels and spirits—'tis all done, may it please your worships, as they tell me, by Intuition;—and beings inferior, as your worships all know—syllogize by their noses: though there is an island swimming in the sea (though not altogether at its ease) whose inhabitants, if my intelligence deceives me not, are so wonderfully gifted, as to syllogize after the same fashion, and oft-times to make very well out too:—but that's neither here nor there—

The gift of doing it as it should be, amongst us, or—the great and principal act of ratiocination in man, as logicians tell us, is the finding out the agreement or disagreement of two ideas one with another, by the intervention of a third (called the medius terminus); just as a man, as Locke well observes, by a yard, finds two mens nine-pin-alleys to be of the same length, which could not be brought together, to measure their equality, by juxta-position.

Had the same great reasoner looked on, as my father illustrated his systems of noses, and observed my uncle Toby's deportment—what great attention he gave to every word—and as oft as he took his pipe from his mouth, with what wonderful seriousness he contemplated the length of it—surveying it transversely as he held it betwixt his finger and his thumb—then fore-right—then this way, and then that, in all its possible directions and fore-shortenings—he would have concluded my uncle Toby had got hold of the medius terminus, and was syllogizing and measuring with it the truth of each hypothesis of long noses, in order, as my father laid them before him. This, by-the-bye, was more than my father wanted—his aim in all the pains he was at in these philosophick lectures—was to enable my uncle Toby not to discuss—but comprehend—to hold the grains and scruples of learning—not to weigh them.—My uncle Toby, as you will read in the next chapter, did neither the one or the other.