Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
By John Selden (15841654)
From the Table-Talk
OPINION and affection extremely differ. I may affect a woman best, but it does not follow I must think her the handsomest woman in the world. I love apples best of any fruit, but it does not follow, I must think apples to be the best fruit. Opinion is something wherein I go about to give reason why all the world should think as I think. Affection is a thing wherein I look after the pleasing of myself.
Twas a good fancy of an old Platonic: The gods, which are above men, had something whereof man did partake, an intellect, knowledge, and the gods kept on their course quietly. The beasts, which are below man, had something whereof man did partake, sense and growth, and the beasts lived quietly in their way. But man had something in him, whereof neither gods nor beasts did partake, which gave him all the trouble, and made all the confusion in the world; and that is opinion.
Tis a foolish thing for me to be brought off from an opinion, in a thing neither of us know, but are led only by some cobweb-stuff; as in such a case as this, Utrum angeli in vicem colloquantur?1 If I forsake my side in such a case, I show myself wonderful light, or infinitely complying, or flattering the other party: but if I be in a business of nature, and hold an opinion one way, and some mans experience has found out the contrary, I may with a safe reputation give up my side.
Tis a vain thing to talk of a heretic, for a man for his heart can think no otherwise than he does think. In the primitive times there were many opinions, nothing scarce but some or other held. One of these opinions being embraced by some prince, and received into his kingdom, the rest were condemned as heresies; and his religion, which was but one of the several opinions, first is said to be orthodox, and so have continued ever since the Apostles.