And yet a majority vote is worthless as a proof of truths that are at all difficult to discover; for a single man is much more likely to hit upon them than a group of people. I was, then, unable to choose anyone whose opinions struck me as preferable to those of all others, and I found myself as it were forced to become my own guide.

[Et que néanmoins la pluralité des voix n’est pas une preuve qui vaille rien, pour les vérités un peu malaisées à découvrir, à cause qu’il est bien plus vraisemblable qu’un homme seul les ait rencontrées que tout un peuple; je ne pouvois choisir personne dont les opinions me semblassent devoir être préférées à celles des autres, et je me trouvai comme contraint d’entreprendre moi-même de me conduire.]

René Descartes (1596-1650) French philosopher, mathematician
Discourse on Method [Discours de la méthode], Part 2 (1637) [tr. Cottingham, Stoothoff (1985)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Although such be the ground of our opinions, I remarked that a plurality of suffrages is no guarantee of truth where it is at all of difficult discovery, as in such cases it is much more likely that it will be found by one than by many. I could, however, select from the crowd no one whose opinions seemed worthy of preference, and thus I found myself constrained, as it were, to use my own reason in the conduct of my life.
[tr. Veitch (1901)]

Yet in spite of this the voice of the majority does not afford a proof of any value in truths a little difficult to discover, because such truths are much more likely to have been discovered by one man than by a nation. I could not, however, put my finger on a single person whose opinions seemed preferable to those of others, and I found that I was, so to speak, constrained myself to undertake the direction of my procedure.
[tr. Haldane & Ross (1911)]

Added on 1-Feb-22 | Last updated 1-Feb-22
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