Marginalia, no.12

From what we know of the Greeks it does not appear that they knew or studied any language but their own; and this was one cause of their becoming so learned; it afforded them more time to apply to better studies. 

~Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

The notion that true learning consists in familiarity with other languages (especially dead ones) is a modern prejudice with little merit, according to Paine.  Better, he says, to devote ourselves to the pure pursuits of science and philosophy.  Thankfully, those terms were more broadly defined in Paine’s day than ours.  But, really, we blushing monoglots will take any comfort offered.


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