Quotations about   error

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Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
Lady Windermere’s Fan, Act 3 [Mr. Dumby] (1892)
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Also in Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. 4 (1890):

Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes.
Added on 13-Apr-22 | Last updated 13-Apr-22
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Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
On Liberty, ch. 2 (1859)
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Progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, Book 1, ch. 5 “We Have Cause to be Uneasy” (1952)
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Originally broadcast on BBC Radio (27 Aug 1941) under the title "What Can We Do About It?" Reprinted first in Broadcast Talks (1943) (US title The Case for Christianity (1944)).
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Pedantry prides herself on being wrong by rules; while common sense is contented to be right without them.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon, #48 (1825)
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For things false lie so close to things true, and things that cannot be perceived to things that can, […] that it is the duty of the wise man not to trust himself to such a steep slope.

[Ita enim finitima sunt falsa veris, eaque, quae percipi non possunt, iis quae possunt […] ut tam in praecipitem locum non debeat se sapiens committere.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Academica, Book 2, ch. 21 / sec. 68 (2.68) (45 BC) [tr. Rackham (1933)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

For falsehoods lie so close to truths, and "appearances" which cannot be perceived to those which can, [...] that the man of wisdom ought not to trust himself on such hazardous ground.
[tr. Reid (1874)]

False and true, and innapprehensible and apprehensible are so close to each other, [...] that the wise person shouldn't commit himself to such a precarious position.
[tr. Brittain (2005)]

So near is falsehood to truth that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge.
[Source]

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There were grammatical errors even in his silence.

[Nawet w jego milczeniu były błędy językowe.]

Stanislaw Lec (1909-1966) Polish aphorist, poet, satirist
Unkempt Thoughts [Myśli nieuczesane] (1957) [tr. Gałązka (1962)]
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Alternate translation: "Even in his silence were grammatical errors."
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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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I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
Neil Gaiman’s Journal, “My New Year Wish” (31 Dec 2011)
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Added on 28-Dec-21 | Last updated 28-Dec-21
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They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
Speech on Economical Reform, House of Commons (11 Feb 1780)
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It is hardly in human nature that a man should quite accurately gauge the limits of his own insight; but it is the duty of those who profit by his work to consider carefully where he may have been carried beyond it. If we must needs embalm his possible errors along with his solid achievements, and use his authority as an excuse for believing what he cannot have known, we make of his goodness an occasion to sin.

William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Ethics of Belief,” Part 2 “The Weight of Authority,” Contemporary Review (Jan 1877)
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Added on 13-Dec-21 | Last updated 13-Dec-21
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The mistakes I made from weakness do not embarrass me nearly so much as those I made insisting on my strength.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
“Vectors: 56 Aphorisms and Ten-second Essays,” Michigan Quarterly Review, #27 (Spring 1999)
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Added on 7-Dec-21 | Last updated 7-Dec-21
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It is only an error of judgment to make a mistake, but it argues an infirmity of character to adhere to it when discovered.

Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904) American epigrammatist, writer, publisher
Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, Vol. 2 (1862)
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Added on 23-Jul-21 | Last updated 23-Jul-21
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Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things. In a world where we are so certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness on their behalf.

William James (1842-1910) American psychologist and philosopher
“The Will to Believe,” sec. 7, New World (Jun 1896)
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Originally a lecture for the Philosophical Clubs of Yale and Brown Universities.
Added on 28-Jun-21 | Last updated 28-Jun-21
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Combining rational intelligence with all the imagination we can command, let us project ourselves forcefully into the future. In doing so, let us not fear occasional error — the imagination is only free when fear of error is temporarily laid aside. Moreover, in thinking about the future, it is better to err on the side of daring, than the side of caution.

Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) American writer and futurist
Future Shock (1970)
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Added on 24-May-21 | Last updated 24-May-21
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POGO: I figgers, Porky, that every man’s heart is eventual in the right place.

PORKY PINE: An’ I figgers, Pogo, that if a man’s gonna be wrong ’bout somethin’, that is the best wrong thing to keep bein’ wrong about til forever.

Walt Kelly (1913-1973) American animator and cartoonist [Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr.]
The Incompleat Pogo, ch. 20 “A Tiger Burns Bright” (1953)
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Many sources paraphrase this as:
POGO: Eventual Porky, I figger ev'ry critter's heart's in the right place.

PORKY PINE: If you gotta be wrong 'bout somthin', that's 'bout the best thing they is to be wrong 'bout.
Added on 12-May-21 | Last updated 12-May-21
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The human mind seldom arrives at truth upon any subject till it has first reached the extremity of error.

Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) American physician, writer, educator, humanitarian
“Effects of Public Punishments Upon Criminals, and Upon Society” (1787)
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But don’t you know, there are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do: and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, ch. 34 (1889)
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Origin of more simplified versions of the phrase. More discussion: The Best Swordsman in the World Doesn’t Need To Fear the Second Best Swordsman – Quote Investigator.
Added on 28-Apr-21 | Last updated 28-Apr-21
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He [Napoleon III] was what I often think is a dangerous thing for a statesman to be — a student of history, and like most of those who study history, he learned from the mistakes of the past how to make new ones.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“Mistaken Lessons from the Past,” The Listener (6 Jun 1963)
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Added on 19-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-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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Ideas have consequences, and totally erroneous ideas are likely to have destructive consequences.

Steve Allen (1922-2000) American composer, entertainer, and wit.
More Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality, “Authenticity of the Bible” (1993)
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Added on 26-Feb-21 | Last updated 26-Feb-21
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It is difficult to pronounce on the opinion of the ministers of our Church as a body: one portion of them, by far the least informed, protests against anything which can advance the honour and the interests of science, because, in their limited and mistaken view, science is adverse to religion. This is not the place to argue that great question. It is sufficient to remark, that the best-informed and most enlightened men of all creeds and pursuits, agree that truth can never damage truth, and that every truth is allied indissolubly by chains more or less circuitous with all other truths; whilst error, at every step we make in its diffusion, becomes not only wider apart and more discordant from all truths, but has also the additional chance of destruction from all rival errors.

Charles Babbage (1791-1871) English mathematician, computer pioneer, philosopher
The Exposition of 1851: Views Of The Industry, The Science, and the Government Of England, ch. 17 (1851)
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Added on 19-Feb-21 | Last updated 19-Feb-21
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Nor let it be feared that erroneous deductions may be made from such recorded facts: the errors which arise from the absence of facts are far more numerous and more durable than those which result from unsound reasoning respecting true data.

Charles Babbage (1791-1871) English mathematician, computer pioneer, philosopher
On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, ch. 7 (1832)
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Sometimes paraphrased, "Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all."
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But when you frequent places of public worship, as I would have you go to all the different ones you meet with, remember that, however erroneous, they are none of them objects of laughter and ridicule. Honest error is to be pitied, not ridiculed. The object of all the public worships in the world is the same; it is that great eternal Being who created everything. The different manners of worship are by no means subjects of ridicule. Each sect thinks its own the best; and I know no infallible judge, in this world, to decide which is the best.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (16 Feb 1748)
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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.
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Every man’s reason is, and must be, his guide; and I may as well expect that every man should be of my size and complexion, as that he should reason just as I do. Every man seeks for truth; but God only knows who has found it. It is, therefore, as unjust to persecute as it is absurd to ridicule people for those several opinions which they cannot help entertaining upon the conviction of their reason.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (21 Sep 1747)
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Speaking of religious beliefs.
Added on 21-Jan-21 | Last updated 21-Jan-21
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No,
it’s no disgrace for a man, even a wise man,
to learn many things and not to be too rigid.
You’ve seen trees by a raging winter torrent,
how many sway with the flood and salvage every twig,
but not the stubborn — they’re ripped out, roots and all.

[ἀλλ᾽ ἄνδρα, κεἴ τις ᾖ σοφός, τὸ μανθάνειν
πόλλ᾽, αἰσχρὸν οὐδὲν καὶ τὸ μὴ τείνειν ἄγαν.
ὁρᾷς παρὰ ῥείθροισι χειμάρροις ὅσα
δένδρων ὑπείκει, κλῶνας ὡς ἐκσῴζεται,
τὰ δ᾽ ἀντιτείνοντ᾽ αὐτόπρεμν᾽ ἀπόλλυται.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 710ff [Haemon] (441 BC) [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 794ff]
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Ancient Greek. Alternate translations:

But that a man, how wise soe'er, should learn
In many things and slack his stubborn will,
This is no derogation. When the streams
Are swollen by mountain-torrents, thou hast seen
That all the trees wich bend them to the flood
Preserve their branches from the angry current,
While those which stem it perish root and branch.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

The wisest man will let himself be swayed
By others' wisdom and relax in time.
See how the trees beside a stream in flood
Save, if they yield to force, each spray unharmed,
But by resisting perish root and branch.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

'Tis no disgrace even to the wise to learn
And lend an ear to reason. You may see
The plant that yields where torrent waters flow
Saves every little twig, when the stout tree
Is torn away and dies.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

No, even when a man is wise, it brings him no shame to learn many things, and not to be too rigid. You see how the trees that stand beside the torrential streams created by a winter storm yield to it and save their branches, while the stiff and rigid perish root and all?
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

True wisdom will be ever glad to learn,
And not too fond of power. Observe the trees,
That bend to wintry torrents, how their boughs
Unhurt remain; while those that brave the storm,
Uprooted torn, shall wither and decay.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

No, though a man be wise, 'tis no shame for him to learn many things, and to bend in season. Seest thou, beside the wintry torrent's course, how the trees that yield to it save every twig, while the stiff-necked perish root and branch?
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

It is not reason never to yield to reason!
In flood time you can see how some trees bend,
And because they bend, even their twigs are safe,
While stubborn trees are torn up, roots and all
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 570ff]

It is no weakness for the wisest man
To learn when he is wrong, know when to yield.
So, on the margin of a flooded river
Trees bending to the torrent live unbroken,
While those that strain against it are snapped off.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 608ff]

A man, though wise, should never be ashamed
of learning more, and must unbend his mind.
Have you not seen the trees beside the torrent,
the ones that bend them saving every leaf,
while the resistant perish root and branch?
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

There's no disgrace, even if one is wise,
In learning more, and knowing when to yield.
See how the trees that grow beside a torrent
Preserve their branches, if they bend; the others,
Those that resist, are torn out, root and branch.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

But a wise man can learn a lot and never be ashamed;
He knows he does not have to be rigid and close-hauled.
You've seen trees tossed by a torrent in a flash flood:
If they bend, they're saved, and every twig survives,
But if they stiffen up, they're washed out from the roots.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

But for a man, even if he is wise, to go on learning
many things and not to be drawn too taut is no shame.
You see how along streams swollen from winter floods
some trees yield and save their twigs,
but others resist and perish, root and branch.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

On the contrary, it is no shame for even a wise man to continue learning. Nor should a man be obstinate. One can see the trees on the heavy river-banks. Those that bend with the rushing current, survive, whereas those bent against it are torn, roots and all.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

For any man,
even if he’s wise, there’s nothing shameful
in learning many things, staying flexible.
You notice how in winter floods the trees
which bend before the storm preserve their twigs.
The ones who stand against it are destroyed,
root and branch.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 804ff]

No, it's no disgrace for a man, even a wise man, to learn many things and not to be too rigid. You see how, in the winter storms, the trees yield that save even their twigs, but those who oppose it are destroyed root and branch.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]
Added on 21-Jan-21 | Last updated 9-May-21
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Genius is what you do with the mistakes.

Michael Moriarty (b. 1941) American-Canadian actor, musician
In Amy Wallace, “The Survivor,” New Yorker (26 Jan 2004)
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Referring to his work with film producer Larry Cohen. Full quote: "It was skin-of-your-teeth filmmaking. Larry tends occasionally not to look ahead. But genius is what you do with the mistakes, and nobody was better with mistakes than Larry Cohen."
Added on 4-Jan-21 | Last updated 4-Jan-21
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What inconceivable madness! For it is not enough to call an opinion “foolishness” when it is utterly devoid of reason.

[O delirationem incredibilem! non enim omnis error stultitia dicenda est.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Divinatione [On Divination], Book 2, ch. 43 / sec. 90 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

  • "What an incredible insanity this is! for every error does not deserve the mere name of folly." [tr. Yonge (1853)]
  • "We must not say that every mistake is a foolish one." This is an early and quite common English translation of the phrase (e.g.) and seems to reverse the meaning.
Added on 23-Nov-20 | Last updated 13-Jan-22
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An old belief is like an old shoe. We so value its comfort that we fail to notice the hole in it.

Robert Brault (b. c. 1945) American aphorist, programmer
(Attributed)
Added on 10-Nov-20 | Last updated 10-Nov-20
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A bad cause seldom fails to betray itself.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
The Federalist Papers, #41 (19 Jan 1788)
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Added on 5-Nov-20 | Last updated 5-Nov-20
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The pain others give passes away in their later kindness, but that of our own blunders, especially when they hurt our vanity, never passes away.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Irish poet and dramatist
Journal entry #105 (18 Mar 1909)
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See also "Vacillation."
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Which is it? Is man one of God’s blunders? Or is God one of man’s blunders?

[Wie? ist der Mensch nur ein Fehlgriff Gottes? Oder Gott nur ein Fehlgriff des Menschen?]

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
Twilight of the Idols [Die Götzen-Dämmerung], “Apophthegms and Darts [Sprüche und Pfeile]” #7 (1889)

Alt. trans.:
  • "How is it? Is man only a mistake of God? Or God only a mistake of man? --" [tr. Common (1896)]
  • "What? Is man just one of God's mistakes? Or is God just one of man's? --" [tr. Large (1998),"Maxims and Barbs"]
  • "What? Is man just God's mistake? Or is God just man's mistake?" [tr. Norman (2005), "Arrows and Epigrams"]
  • "What? Is man merely a mistake of God's? Or God merely a mistake of man's?" [tr. Hollingdale (1968)]
  • "Which is it? Is man only a blunder of God? Or is God only a blunder of man?" [tr. Ludovici (1911), "Maxims and Missiles"]
Added on 12-Oct-20 | Last updated 12-Oct-20
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From such Considerations as these it follows, that I ought never to be angry with any one for differing in Judgment from me. For how know I but the Point in dispute between us, is one of those Errors that I have embrac’d as Truth. If I am in the Wrong, I should not be displeas’d that another is in the Right. If I am in the Right, ’tis my Happiness; and I should rather pity than blame him who is unfortunately in the Wrong.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Josiah Franklin (Apr 1738) [draft]
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Added on 8-Oct-20 | Last updated 8-Oct-20
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We sometimes find ourselves changing our minds without any resistance or heavy emotion, but if we are told that we are wrong we resent the imputation and harden our hearts. We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship. It is obviously not the ideas themselves that are dear to us, but our self-esteem which is threatened.

James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936) American historian and educator
The Mind in the Making, ch. 4 “Rationalizing” (1921)
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Added on 6-Oct-20 | Last updated 6-Oct-20
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A just cause is not ruined by a few mistakes.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) Russian novelist
“Critical Articles: Introduction,” Complete Collected Works (1895)
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But since it is no more in a Man’s Power to think than to look like another, methinks all that should be expected from me is to keep my Mind open to Conviction, to hear patiently and examine attentively whatever is offered me for that end; and if after all I continue in the same Errors, I believe your usual Charity will induce you rather to pity and excuse than blame me.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Josiah and Abiah Franklin (13 Apr 1738)
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Added on 24-Sep-20 | Last updated 24-Sep-20
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Our blunders mostly come from letting our wishes interpret our duties, or hide from us plain indications of unwelcome tasks.

Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) Scots-English minister, homilist
The Secret of Power: And Other Sermons, Sermon 15 “Moses and Hobab” (1902)
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Added on 21-Sep-20 | Last updated 21-Sep-20
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You both seem concern’d lest I have imbib’d some erroneous Opinions. Doubtless I have my Share, and when the natural Weakness and Imperfection of Human Understanding is considered, with the unavoidable Influences of Education, Custom, Books and Company, upon our Ways of thinking, I imagine a Man must have a good deal of Vanity who believes, and a good deal of Boldness who affirms, that all the Doctrines he holds, are true; and all he rejects, are false. And perhaps the same may be justly said of every Sect, Church and Society of men when they assume to themselves that Infallibility which they deny to the Popes and Councils. I think Opinions should be judg’d of by their Influences and Effects; and if a Man holds none that tend to make him less Virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded he holds none that are dangerous; which I hope is the Case with me.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Josiah and Abiah Franklin (13 Apr 1738)
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DEXTER: I’d rather do something and make a mistake, than be frightened into doing nothing. That’s the problem back home. Folks have been conned into thinking they can’t change the world. Have to accept what is. I’ll tell you something, my friends, the world is changing every day. The only question is, who’s doing it?

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 3×20 “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place” (14 Oct 1996)

See Straczynski.
Added on 10-Sep-20 | Last updated 14-Feb-22
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It says in the Constitution that we all have a guaranteed right to make fools of ourselves. I have taken every chance to reap the rewards of that guarantee. If forced to action, I mean to fight to defend that right, which includes the right to be wrong, queer, or just kooky. And how can I defend that unless I defend those kooks and queers who think (wrongly, of course) that I am kooky and queer?

John Ciardi (1916-1986) American poet, writer, critic
In Vince Clemente, “‘A Man Is What He Does With His Attention’: A Conversation with John Ciardi,” Poesis, Vol. 7 #2 (1986)
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His view of war — and he had seen a great deal of it — was that a general made as many blunders as he fought battles, but, by the grace of the gods, the opposing generals’ blunders were sometimes worse.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) English writer
A Conspiracy of Women (1966)
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See Tartakower.
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For nothing stands out so conspicuously, or remains so firmly fixed in the memory, as something in which you have blundered.

[Nihil est enim tam insigne, nec tam ad diuturnitatem memoriae stabile, quam id, in quo aliquid offenderis.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Oratore [On the Orator], Book 1, ch. 28, sec. 129 (55 BC)

Alt trans.:
  • "For nothing makes so remarkable, so deep an impression upon the memory as a miscarriage." [tr. Guthrie (1742)]
  • "Nothing, indeed, is so much noticed, or makes an impression of such lasting continuance on the memory, as that in which you give any sort of offense." [tr. Watson (1855)]
  • "For nothing so immediately attracts attention, or clings so tenaciously to the memory, as any defect." [tr. Calvert (1870)]
  • "Nothing attracts so much attention, or retains such a hold upon men's memories, as the occasion when you have made a mistake." [Source]
  • Original Latin
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A successful career has been full of great blunders.

Charles Buxton (1823-1871) English brewer, philanthropist, writer, politician
Notes of Thought, #482 (1873)
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For there is no gardening without humility, an assiduous willingness to learn, and a cheerful readiness to confess you were mistaken. Nature is continually sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder. But, by the due exercise of patience and diligence, they may work their way to the top again.

Alfred Austin (1835-1913) English poet, UK Poet Laureate (1986-1913)
The Garden That I Love, “April 30th” (1894)
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Brooding over blunders is the biggest blunder.

Muhammad Ali (b. 1942) American boxer [b. Cassius Clay]
“What I’ve Learned,” Esquire (Jan 2004)
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No matter what the belief, if it had modestly said, “This is our best thought, go on, think farther!” then we could have smoothly outgrown our early errors and long since have developed a religion such as would have kept pace with an advancing world. But we were made to believe and not allowed to think. We were told to obey, rather than to experiment and investigate.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) American sociologist, writer, reformer, feminist
His Religion and Hers, ch. 10 (1923)
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When people reject a truth or an untruth it is not because it is a truth or an untruth that they reject it,

No, if it isn’t in accord with their beliefs in the first place they simply say, “Nothing doing,” and refuse to inspect it.

Likewise when they embrace a truth or an untruth it is not for either its truth or its mendacity,

But simply because they have believed it all along and therefore regard the embrace as a tribute to their own fair-mindedness and sagacity.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Seeing Eye to Eye is Believing,” Good Intentions (1942)
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It takes a lot of things to prove you are smart, but only one thing to prove you are ignorant.

Don Herold (1889-1966) American humorist, cartoonist, author
So Human (1924)
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This is the Achilles heel of quotation collections: An initial error in one will be repeated so often by others that over time it gains authority through repetition alone.

Ralph Keyes (b. 1945) American author.
“Nice Guys Finish Seventh”: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations, ch. 13 (1992)
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Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.

Bernard Ingham (b. 1932) British journalist, civil servant, press secretary
Quoted in The Observer (17 Mar 1985)

Often paraphrased, "Cock-up before conspiracy." Cf. Hanlon.
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We are never so certain of our knowledge as when we’re dead wrong.

Adair Lara (b. 1952) American writer, columnist, teacher
“A Lot of Knowledge Is Dangerous, Too,” San Francisco Chronicle (9 Oct 1997)
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Human blunders, however, usually do more to shape history than human wickedness.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
The Origins of the Second World War, ch. 10 “The War of Nerves” (1961)
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That seems to point up a significant difference between Europeans and Americans:

A European says: I can’t understand this, what’s wrong with me?
An American says: I can’t understand this, what’s wrong with him?

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett (8 May 1994)
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Better ask twice than lose your way once.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Danish Proverb
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Your minds that once did stand erect and strong,
What madness swerves them from their wonted course?

[Quo vobis mentes, rectae quae stare solebant
Antehac, dementis sese flexere viai?]

Quintus Ennius (239-169 BC) Roman poet, writer
Fragment
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Quoted by Cicero in De Senectute, ch. 4, v. 14, vi. 16 [trans. Falconer]
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