Collectio

mouse cheese

‘Mus syllaba est;
mus autem caseum rodit;
syllaba ergo caseum rodit.’
puta nunc me istuc non posse solvere: quod mihi ex ista inscientia periculum imminet? quod incommodum? sine dubio verendum est ne quando in muscipulo syllabas capiam, aut ne quando, si neglegentior fuero, caseum liber comedat. nisi forte illa acutior est collectio:
‘mus syllaba est;
syllaba autem caseum non rodit;
mus ergo caseum non rodit.’
o pueriles ineptias! in hoc supercilia subduximus? in hoc barbam demisimus? hoc est quod tristes docemus et pallidi?
(Seneca Minor, Ep. ad Luc. 48.6-7)

“Mouse” is a syllable.
But a mouse eats cheese.
Therefore a syllable eats cheese.
Suppose I can’t solve that one: what risk do I incur by not knowing how? What inconvenience even? Sure, I’d have to watch out—someday I might find myself catching syllables in mousetraps! Better be careful—my cheese might be eaten by a book! But wait, maybe this is a smarter syllogism:
Mouse is a syllable.
But a syllable doesn’t eat cheese.
Therefore a mouse doesn’t eat cheese.
What childish pranks! Is this what makes us knit our brows? Is this why we let our beards grow long? Are we pale and earnest in our teaching of this? (tr. Margaret Graver & Anthony A. Long)

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