[M]ankind is eager for truth, lives by it, will not let it go, and turns desperate in the teeth of contradiction… We must recognize that our work to attain truth succeeds only piecemeal. Where our hope of truth breaks down is at the stage of making great inferences from well-tested lesser truths. Still, we cannot help inferring. Our love of order impels us to make theories, systems, sets of principles. We need them both for comfort and for action… As the historian knows, the breakup of old truths is painful, often bloody, but it does not condemn the search for truth and its recurrent bafflement, which are part of man’s fate. It should only make us strengthen tolerance and lessen our pretentions.
~ Jacques Barzun, “The Search for Truths”
2008 is my year for lessening pretensions; you may judge my success (or failure) for yourself. But perhaps my happiest bookshop find of the year so far was a hardcover edition of the Jacques Barzun Reader – for a mere three bucks! If the search for books, like the search for truth, is subject to recurrent bafflement, it still has its “Eureka!” moments.