Quotations about   correction

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It is only an error in judgment to make a mistake, but it argues an infirmity of character to stick to it.

Adela Rogers St Johns
Adela Rogers St. Johns (1894-1988) American journalist, novelist, screenwriter.
Some Are Born Great (1974)
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Added on 31-Dec-21 | Last updated 31-Dec-21
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Since we all need reproving and rebuking, and since we all know that we need reproving and rebuking, we ought — if we were logical — to be extremely grateful to those who reprove and rebuke us. And I suppose that, sooner or later, we are; but almost invariably later.

Frank W. Boreham (1871-1959) Anglo-Australian preacher
The Fiery Crags (1929)
Added on 27-Jul-21 | Last updated 27-Jul-21
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Since we can never know anything for sure, it is simply not worth searching for certainty; but it is well worth searching for truth; and we do this chiefly by searching for mistakes, so that we have to correct them.

Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994) Austrian-British philosopher
“Knowledge and the Shaping of Reality,” lecture, Alpbach (Aug 1982)
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Reprinted in In Search of a Better World, ch. 1 (1994).
Added on 29-Mar-21 | Last updated 29-Mar-21
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It is better to correct your own faults than those of another.

[Κρέσσον τὰ οἰκήϊα ἐλέγχειν ἁμαρτήματα ἢ τὰ ὀθνεῖα.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 60 (Diels) [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
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Original Greek. Diels cites this as "Fragment 60, (114 N.) DEMOKRATES. 25"; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium III, 13, 46. Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter.

Alternate translations:

  • "It is better to examine one's own faults than those of others." [tr. Freeman (1948)]
  • "It is better to examine your own mistakes than those of others." [tr. Barnes (1987)]
  • "It is better to rebuke familiar faults than foreign ones." [tr. @sententiq (2018)]
  • "Rather examine your own faults than those of others." [Source]
Added on 2-Feb-21 | Last updated 23-Feb-21
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Errors and mistakes, however gross, in matters of opinion, if they are sincere, are to be pitied, but not punished nor laughed at. The blindness of the understanding is as much to be pitied as the blindness of the eye, and there is neither jest nor guilt in a man’s losing his way in either case. Charity bids us set him right if we can, by arguments and persuasions; but charity, at the same time, forbids, either to punish or ridicule his misfortune.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (21 Sep 1747)
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On religious tolerance.
Added on 28-Jan-21 | Last updated 28-Jan-21
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Even when laws have been written down, they ought not always to remain unaltered. As in other sciences, so in politics, it is impossible that all things should be precisely set down in writing; for enactments must be universal, but actions are concerned with particulars.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 2, ch. 8 / 1269a.9 [tr. Jowett (1885)]
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Alt. trans.
  • "Nor is it, moreover, right to permit written laws always to remain without alteration; for as in all other sciences, so in politics, it is impossible to express everything in writing with perfect exactness; for when we commit anything to writing we must use general terms, but in every action there is something particular to itself, which these may not comprehend." [tr. Ellis (1912)]
  • "Moreover even written codes of law may with advantage not be left unaltered. For just as in the other arts as well, so with the structure of the state it is impossible that it should have been framed aright in all its details; for it must of necessity be couched in general terms, but our actions deal with particular things." [tr. Rackham (1932)]
  • "In addition t this, it is not best to leave written laws unchanged. For just as in the case of the other arts, so with respect to political arrangements it is impossible for everything to be written down precisely; for it is necessary to write them in universal fashion, while actions concern particulars." [tr. Lord (1984)]
Added on 8-Jan-21 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
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The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question; it’s to post the wrong answer.

Howard G. "Ward" Cunningham (b. 1949) American computer scientist
“Cunningham’s Law”
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Cunningham himself denies having said this. It was attributed to him (and so named) by Steven McGeady in the early 1980s.
Added on 10-Nov-20 | Last updated 10-Nov-20
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An apology is the superglue of life! It can repair just about anything.

Lynn Johnston (b. 1947) Canadian cartoonist
For Better or For Worse (31 May 1994)
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For more discussion, see here.
Added on 16-Aug-19 | Last updated 16-Aug-19
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No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Turkish proverb
Added on 20-Jul-17 | Last updated 20-Jul-17
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There is no harm in being sometimes wrong — especially if one is promptly found out.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Alfred Marshall,” The Economic Journal (Sep 1924)
Added on 1-Mar-17 | Last updated 1-Mar-17
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You couldn’t get hold of the things you’d done and turn them right again. Such a power might be given to the gods, but it was not given to women and men, and that was probably a good thing. Had it been otherwise, people would probably die of old age still trying to rewrite their teens.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
The Stand (1978)
Added on 27-Jul-16 | Last updated 27-Jul-16
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It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Attributed)
Added on 16-Oct-15 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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There is something wonderful in seeing a wrong-headed majority assailed by truth.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
The Guardian (28 Jul 1989)
Added on 24-Jun-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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If forty million people say a foolish thing it does not become a wise one, but the wise man is foolish to give them the lie.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
A Writer’s Notebook (1949)

An entry dated 1901. More discussion about this quotation: If Fifty Million People Say a Foolish Thing, It Is Still a Foolish Thing – Quote Investigator
Added on 27-Mar-15 | Last updated 14-Apr-21
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I’ll not willingly offend,
Nor be easily offended;
What’s amiss I’ll strive to mend,
And endure what can’t be mended.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) English theologian and hymnodist
Poems, “Moral Songs: #6 Good Resolutions”
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In Samuel Johnson, Works of English Poets, vol. 46 (1779)
Added on 17-Mar-15 | Last updated 17-Mar-15
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If you look at automata which have been built by men or which exist in nature you will very frequently notice that their structure is controlled to a much larger extent by the manner in which they might fail and by the (more or less effective) precautionary measures which have been taken against their failure. And to say that they are precautions against failure is to overstate the case, to use an optimistic terminology which is completely alien to the subject. Rather than precautions against failure, they are arrangements by which it is attempted to achieve a state where at least a majority of all failures will not be lethal. There can be no question of eliminating failures or of completely paralyzing the effects of failures. All we can try to do is to arrange an automaton so that in the vast majority of failures it can continue to operate. These arrangements give palliatives of failures, not cures. Most of the arrangements of artificial and natural automata and the principles involved therein are of this sort.

John von Neumann (1903-1957) Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, inventor, polymath [János "Johann" Lajos Neumann]
Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata, Lecture 3 “Statistical Theories of Information”
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Added on 6-Feb-15 | Last updated 6-Feb-15
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Science, my lad, has been built upon many errors; but they are errors which is was good to fall into, for they led to the truth.

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Journey to the Center of the Earth [Voyage au centre de la Terre], ch. 30 [Liedenbrock] (1864)
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Alt. trans.: "Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth."
Added on 30-Dec-14 | Last updated 30-Dec-14
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In the course of my life I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
Comment (c. 1940s)
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Quoted by Lord Normanbrook in John Wheeler-Bennett, ed., Action This Day: Working with Churchill, p. 28 (1968).

Frequently paraphrased as:
  • "Eating my words has never given me indigestion."
  • "I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."
Added on 23-Jun-14 | Last updated 23-Jun-14
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Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself. She seldom has received much aid from the power of great men to whom she is rarely known & seldom welcome. She has no need of force to procure entrance into the minds of men. Error indeed has often prevailed by the assistance of power or force. Truth is the proper & sufficient antagonist to error.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Notes on Religion (Oct 1776)
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Added on 20-Dec-12 | Last updated 25-Apr-22
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O my son!
These are no trifles! Think: all men make mistakes,
But a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong,
And repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 1022ff [Tiresias] (441 BC) [tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), ll. 803ff]
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Alt. trans.:

Then take these things to heart, my son: for error
Is as the universal lot of man;
But whenso'er he errs, that man no longer
Is witless or unblessed, who, having fallen
Into misfortune, seeks to mend his ways
And is not obstinate: the stiffneckt temper
Must oft plead guilty to the charge of folly.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

Now, then, my son, take thought. A man may err;
But he is not insensate or foredoomed
To ruin, who, when he hath lapsed to evil,
Stands not inflexible, but heals the harm.
The obstinate man still earns the name of fool.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

O ponder this, my son. To err is common
To all men, but the man who having erred
Hugs not his errors, but repents and seeks
The cure, is not a wastrel nor unwise.
No fool, the saw goes, like the obstinate fool.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

Think, therefore, on these things, my son. All men are liable to err. But when an error is made, that man is no longer unwise or unblessed who heals the evil into which he has fallen and does not remain stubborn. Self-will, we know, invites the charge of foolishness.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

Consider this, my son! and, O remember,
To err is human; 'tis the common lot
Of frail mortality; and he alone
Is wise and happy, who, when ills are done,
Persists not, but would heal the wound he made.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

Think, then, on these things, my son. All men are liable to err; but when an error hath been made, that man is no longer witless or unblest who heals the ill into which he hath fallen, and remains not stubborn. Self-will, we know, incurs the charge of folly.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

Mark this, my son: all men fall into sin.
But sinning, he is not forever lost
Hapless and helpless, who can make amends
And has not set his face against repentance.
Only a fool is governed by self-will.
[tr. Watling (1939)]

Think of these things, my son. All men may err
but error once committed, he's no fool
nor yet unfortunate, who gives up his stiffness
ad cures the trouble he has fallen in.
Stubbornness and stupidity are twins.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

Be warned, my son, No man alive is free
From error, but the wise and prudent man
When he has fallen into evil courses
Does not persist, but tries to find amendment ....
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Take these things to heart, my son, I warn you.
All men make mistakes, it is only human.
But once the wrong is done, a man
can turn his back on folly, misfortune too,
if he tries to make amends, however low he's fallen,
and stops his bullnecked ways. Stubbornness
brands you for stupidity -- pride is a crime
[tr. Fagles (1982), l. 1131ff]

Therefore, think about this, child. For men,
all of them, it is common to make mistakes.
Whenever he does make a mistake, that man is still not
foolish or unhappy who, fallen into evil,
applies a remedy and does not become immovable.
Stubborn self-will incurs a charge of stupidity.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

Understand this: All men make mistakes. But when they do, it would be a wise and well acting man who corrected that mistake and moved on rather than stayed there stubbornly and unrepentant. The stubborn man is rewarded with more errors.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

Consider this, my son.
All men make mistakes -- that's not uncommon.
But when they do, they’re no longer foolish
or subject to bad luck if they try to fix
the evil into which they’ve fallen,
once they give up their intransigence.
Men who put their stubbornness on show
invite accusations of stupidity.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 1138ff]

Therefore, think on these things, my child; for every human being makes mistakes, but when he has made a mistake, that man is no longer foolish and unhappy who remedies the evil into which he has fallen and is not stubborn. Obstinacy brings the charge of stupidity.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Dec-20
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Every observation of history inspires a confidence that we shall not go far wrong; that things will mend.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“The Young American,” lecture, Mercantile Library Association, Boston (7 Feb 1844)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Feb-22
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