If the two-part structure and the binary nature of its value system are crucial aspects of the format of Wilde’s epigrams, the most important element of their thought is their relationship with truth. The success of Wilde’s wit depends just as much on the plausibility of its implied wisdom as it does on the unity and coherence of its expression. The real strength of wit as a representation of thought is not in that it is convincing regardless of its inherent logical fallacies, but in that it sways our opinion precisely because of them. Though wit is rarely considered to be the result of conscious reasoning, its unique ability to account for ostensibly unrelated issues makes it surprisingly useful as a discursive device. Because of this, our reading of Wilde’s epigrams will concentrate in this chapter on the philosophical dimensions of his wit and, more specifically, on the logical and epistemological principles that govern its understanding.
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