The Relation Of Style To Thought -- By: W. G. T. Shedd

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 008:31 (Jul 1851)
Article: The Relation Of Style To Thought
Author: W. G. T. Shedd


The Relation Of Style To Thought

Prof. W. G. T. Shedd

In a previous article we endeavored to specify the general retention of language to thought, and to maintain the truth of that theory which regards human language as springing spontaneously from the nature and wants of man. The connection that exists between language and the thought conveyed by it was conceived to be that which exists between any, and every, living principle, and the sensible form, in which it appears to the senses — a vital and organic connection. Although it was freely conceded that it would perhaps be impossible, to detect this vitality of connection with the particular thought expressed, in the case of every word in the language, it was yet maintained that language as a whole, is characterized by a propriety and fitness for the purpose for which it exists which must have sprung from some deeper and more living ground than custom and the principle of association. It was also thought that the theory is a fruitful one in itself, both for the philologist and the philosopher, and that it furnishes the best clue to that more vital, and consequently less easily explicable, use of language, employed by the poet and the orator.

Indeed, the truth and fruitfulness of the theory in question, are nowhere more apparent than in the department of rhetoric and criticism. This department takes special cognizance of the more living and animated forms of speech — of the glow of the poet, and the fire of the orator. It also investigates all those peculiarities of construction and form in human composition that spring out of individual1

characteristics. It is, therefore, natural to suppose that a theory of language, which recognizes a power in human thought to organize and vivify and modify the forms in which it appears, will afford the best light in which to examine those forms; just as it is natural to suppose that the commonly received theory of physical life, will furnish a better light in which to examine vegetable and animal productions, than a theory like that of Descartes, e. g. which maintains that the forms and functions in the animal kingdom are the result of a mechanical principle. Life itself is the best light in which to contemplate living things.

We propose in the present article to follow the same general method pursued in the preceding, and examine the nature of style, by pointing out its relation to thought.

Style is the particular manner in which thought flows out, in the case of the individual mind, and upon a particular subject. When, therefore, it has, as it always should have, a free and spontaneous origin, it ...

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