Monday, August 02, 2004


Admitting One's Mistakes

St. Augustine, Letters, 143.2 (to Marcellinus):
Hence I confess that I try to be one of those who write in order to make progress, and who make progress by writing. If therefore I've said anything somewhat rash or stupid, which deserves blame not only by others who are able to detect it but also by myself (since I at least ought to see my mistake afterwards, if I'm making progress), that is no cause for surprise or sorrow. Rather it is cause for pardon and congratulation, not because a mistake has been made but because it has been renounced. For that man loves himself in an excessively bad way who wishes others to be mistaken too, in order that his own mistake might remain undiscovered.

Ego proinde fateor me ex eorum numero esse conari, qui proficiendo scribunt, et scribendo proficiunt. Unde si aliquid vel incautius, vel indoctius a me positum est, quod non solum ab aliis qui videre id possunt, merito reprehendatur, verum etiam a meipso, quia et ego saltem postea videre debeo, si proficio; nec mirandum est, nec dolendum: sed potius ignoscendum atque gratulandum; non quia erratum est, sed quia improbatum. Nam nimis perverse seipsum amat qui et alios vult errare, ut error suus lateat.
St. Augustine's last work was his Retractationes (Reconsiderations), a catalogue of errors and inaccuracies which he thought he had made in his other works. In the history of ideas there haven't been many other thinkers with the intellectual honesty to follow his example.

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