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William Penn. (1644–1718). Fruits of Solitude.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Part II

Of Refining upon Other Men’s Actions or Interests

271. This seems to be the Master-Piece of our Politicians; But no Body shoots more at Random, than those Refiners.

272. A perfect Lottery, and meer Hap-Hazard. Since the true Spring of the Actions of Men is as Invisible as their Hearts; and so are their Thoughts too of their several Interests.

273. He that judges of other Men by himself, does not always hit the Mark, because all Men have not the same Capacity, nor Passions in Interest.

274. If an able Man refines upon the Proceedings of an ordinary Capacity, according to his own, he must ever miss it: But much more the ordinary Man, when he shall pretend to speculate the Motives to the able Man’s Actions: For the Able Man deceives himself by making t’other wiser than he is in the Reason of his Conduct; and the ordinary Man makes himself so, in presuming to judge of the Reasons of the Abler Man’s Actions.

275. ’T is in short a Wood, a Maze, and of nothing are we more uncertain, nor in anything do we oftener befool ourselves.

276. The Mischiefs are many that follow this Humor, and dangerous: For Men Misguide themselves, act upon false Measures, and meet frequently with mischievous Disappointments.

277. It excludes all Confidence in Commerce; allows of no such Thing as a Principle in Practice; supposes every Man to act upon other Reasons than what appears, and that there is no such Thing as a Straightness or Sincerity among Mankind: A Trick instead of Truth.

278. Neither, allowing Nature or Religion; but some Worldly Fetch or Advantage: The true, the hidden Motive to all Men to act or do.

279. ’T is hard to express its Uncharitableness, as well as Uncertainty; and has more of Vanity than Benefit in it.

280. This Foolish Quality gives a large Field, but let what I have said serve for this Time.