Why We Published Wit & Wisdom

Clifford G. Hurst, PhD (Hartman Institute VP of Research) shares why and how we published Wit & Wisdom the most accessible, easy to read, and enjoyable collection of Robert Hartman's thought to date.


Across northern New England and much of Eastern Canada, the first sign of spring is the appearance along the roadsides of gallon-sized metal buckets tapped into the sides of maple trees. It’s maple syrup season. Beginning in March, as the days warm-up above freezing but the nights remain cold, the sap starts running in the maple trees. A large sugar maple generates so much sap that a couple of gallons of it per day can be tapped off without damaging the tree. Once farmers have harvested enough sap, the work really begins.

You see, it takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup. To reduce this much sap by a factor of forty, you have to build a large fire under a broad, shallow, uncovered container. This gives the heated sap a lot of surface area for excess water to evaporate. It takes a long time. That means hours of fire-tending.  And… you have to stop reducing it at just the right moment or the syrup will scald and be ruined.

That’s just about what it was like to produce this newest book in the Institute’s Axiological Studies Series. It was like making maple syrup.

A group of us on the Board asked ourselves, “How can we make Hartman’s work more accessible to a larger audience?” “How can we make his writing easier… and more enjoyable… to read?”

We decided to take a close look at seven published works and one as-yet-unpublished manuscript by Hartman to see if we could cull from them the essence of some of his most important thoughts. It became a book of quotes, from one-liners to short paragraphs of Hartman’s own words. Then, we thought we’d tie them together into coherent order—an order that, we believe, best tells the story of formal axiology from general principles to practical application. We next sought to present them in a way that was visually engaging. We wanted this book to look as good as maple syrup tastes. We think we succeeded. Let us know what you think.

How did we choose the title for this book? Well, the dictionary defines “wit” as the compact expression of wisdom. Hartman’s writing was full of both wit and wisdom. In his longer works, though, his wit sometimes gets lost amidst his careful explication of wisdom. So, we’ve boiled things down, just as if we were making maple syrup.

We hope you enjoy it.  We also hope you find it worthy enough to pass copies along to clients, potential customers, students, and loved ones so that they, too, can live life more fully by learning about formal axiology. Read it front-to-back if you want to follow the progressive logic of Hartman’s theory. Or simply open it to any page at random and you will probably find a quote that makes you think, that makes you smile, that makes you wince, or that makes you want to read more.

Any one of these quotes in Wit & Wisdom could be elaborated upon and developed into an essay for this blog. Give it a try; we want to know what you are thinking and why you believe it’s important for the world to know more about formal axiology.

Clifford G. Hurst, Ph.D.

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