Monday, April 17, 2006

Terence, Socrates and Herbert On Opinions

Quot homines tot sententiae
Terence, Roman comic dramatist (185 BC - 159 BC)

This Latin phrase idiomatically translates as, “There are as many men as there are opinions.”

So much of modern education is encouraging our students to have “opinions” instead of well-informed positions. It takes time and effort to develop an argument defending a position. For an opinion, on the contrary, it only takes a heart-beat and the ability to form words. Socrates states, “Wind puffs up empty bladders; opinions, fools.”

I am reading English poet George Herberts’s (1593-1633) classic work, The Temple. I recently came across this little poem, which seemed to me to be very timely:

In conversation boldnesse now bears sway.
But know, that nothing can so foolish be,
As empty boldnesse: therefore first assay
To stuffe thy minde with solid braverie;
Then march on gallant: get substantiall worth.
Boldnesse guilds finely, and will set it forth.

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