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Not to keep from error, is the duty of the educator of men, but to guide the erring one, even to let him swill his error out of full cups. That is the wisdom of teachers. He who merely tastes of his error will keep house with it for a long time. … But he who drains it to the dregs will have to get to know it. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

An error is a statement or action which is inaccurate or incorrect.

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He who thinks little, errs much. ~ Leonardo da Vinci
In proportion to a man’s want of confidence in his own solitary judgment, does he usually repose, with implicit trust, on the infallibly of “the world” in general. ~ John Stuart Mill


  • Behold, now let my heart confess to thee what it was seeking there, when I was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my error—not that for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself.


  • The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions than to help the search after truth.
  • Radical errors in the first concoction of the mind are not to be cured by the excellence of functions and remedies subsequent.
  • The truth is perilous never to the true,
    Nor knowledge to the wise; and to the fool,
    And to the false, error and truth alike,
    Error is worse than ignorance.
  • Progress is the exploration of our own error. Evolution is a consolidation of what have always begun as errors. And errors are of two kinds: errors that turn out to be true and errors that turn out to be false (which are most of them). But they both have the same character of being an imaginative speculation. seems to me terribly important to say this in an age in which most nonscientists are feeling a kind of loss of nerve. the time science becomes a closed—that is, computerizable—project, it is not science anymore. It is not in the area of the exploration of errors.
  • Have too rashly charged the troops of error and remain as trophies unto the enemies of truth.
  • It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the publick to be the most anxious for its welfare.
    • Edmund Burke, Observations on a Late Publication on the Present State of the Nation (1769)


  • Ignorance is a blank sheet, on which we may write; but error is a scribbled one, from which we must first erase. Ignorance is content to stand still with her back to the truth, but error is more presumptuous, and proceeds in the same direction.


  • The bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious. Both errors tend to make him "personal." Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.
  • If you hastily affirm as true all that awaits confirmation as well as that which does not, you will not escape error.


  • The proper method for hastening the decay of error is not by brute force, or by regulation which is one of the classes of force, to endeavour to reduce men to intellectual uniformity; but on the contrary by teaching every man to think for himself.
  • Nicht vor Irrthum zu bewahren, ist die Pflicht des Menschenerziehers, sondern den Irrenten zu leiten, ja, ihn seinen Irrthum aus vollen Bechern ausschlürfen zu lassen, das ist Weisheit der Lehrer. Wer seinen Irrthum nur kostet, hält lange damit Haus, er freuet sich dessen als eines seltenen Glücks; aber wer ihn ganz erschöpft, der muß ihn kennen lernen, wenn er nicht wahnsinnig ist.
    • Not to keep from error, is the duty of the educator of men, but to guide the erring one, even to let him swill his error out of full cups. That is the wisdom of teachers. He who merely tastes of his error will keep house with it for a long time. … But he who drains it to the dregs will have to get to know it.
  • Es irrt der Mensch so lang er strebt.
    • Man errs, till he has ceased to strive.
      • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy (1808) The Lord, line 317
  • Die Wahrheit widerspricht unserer Natur, der Irrthum nicht, und zwar aus einem sehr einfachen Grunde: die Wahrheit fordert, daß wir uns für beschränkt erkennen follen, der Irrthum schmeichelt uns. wir seien auf ein- oder die andere Weise unbegränzt.
    • Truth is contrary to our nature … truth demands that we should recognize ourselves as limited, error flatters us that, in one way or another, we are unlimited.
      • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections, as translated by Elisabeth Stopp (1998) #310
  • Der Irrthum verhält sich gegen das Wahre wie der Schlaf gegen das Wachen. Ich habe bemerkt, daß man aus dem Irren sich wie erquickt wieder zu dem Wahren hinwende.
    • Error is related to truth as sleeping is to waking. … When one has been in error, one turns to truth as though revitalized.
  • Es ist so gewiß als wunderbar, daß Wahrheit und Irrthum aus Einer Quelle entstehen; deßwegen man oft dem Irrthum nicht schaden darf, weil man zugleich der Wahrheit.
    • It is as certain as it is marvelous that truth and error come from one source. Therefore one often may not injure error, because at the same time one injures truth.
  • En un descuido puede caer el mayor sabio, pero en dos no; y de paso, que no de asiento.
    • The greatest of sages can commit one mistake, but not two; he may fall into error, but he doesn’t lie down and make his home there.
      • Baltasar Gracián, Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia, § 214, Christopher Maurer translation


  • Kirk: I am the Kirk, the creator?
Nomad: You are the creator.
Kirk: You're wrong! Jackson Roykirk, your creator, is dead. You have mistaken me for him. You are in error! You did not discover your mistake; you have made two errors. You are flawed and imperfect, and you have not corrected by sterilization; you've made three errors!
Nomad: Error? Error? Error? Examine.


  • While every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion, of which they feel very certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable. ... For in proportion to a man’s want of confidence in his own solitary judgment, does he usually repose, with implicit trust, on the infallibly of “the world” in general. And the world, to each individual, means the part of it with which he comes in contact; his party, his sect, his church, his class of society. ... Nor is his faith in this collective authority at all shaken by his being aware that other ages, countries, sects, churches, classes, and parties have thought, and even now think, the exact reverse. ... It never troubles him that mere accident has decided which of these numerous worlds is the object of his reliance.
    • J. S. Mill, On Liberty (1895), Chapter 2, pp. 36-37
  • 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.


  • In prison.—My eye, however strong and weak it may be, only encompasses a certain distance, and within this distance I move and live; this horizontal line is my immediate greater and lesser fate, from which I cannot escape. Thus round every being a concentric circle is drawn, which has a centre and which is peculiar to him. In a similar way our ear encloses us in a small space, and so does our touch. By these horizons, wherein our senses are confined as in prison-walls, we measure the world, calling one thing near and another far off, one thing large and another small, one thing hard and another soft: this measuring we call feeling—it is all, in itself, an error! According to the number of experiences and excitements which we may possibly experience during a certain period, we value our lives as short or long, poor or rich, full or void: and in correspondence to the average human life we value that of all other beings—all this is an error in itself! Were our eyes a hundred times quicker with regard to our surroundings, human beings would appear enormously tall to us; nay, we might conceive senses by which mortals might be felt to be of immeasurable size. On the other hand, organs could be imagined such as to allow whole solar systems to be viewed as if contracted and closely packed together like a single cell: and to beings of the opposite order, one cell of the human body might present itself as a solar system in motion, construction, and harmony. The habits of our senses have plunged us into the lies and deceptions of feeling: these, again, are the foundations of all our judgments and "knowledge," there is no escape whatever, no back-way or by-way into the real world. We spiders are caught in our own nets, and whatever we may catch in them, we cannot catch anything but what allows itself to be caught in our net.


  • Sometimes a way seems right,

but the end of it leads to death!


  • Rarely do we arrive at the summit of truth without running into extremes; we have frequently to exhaust the part of error, and even of folly, before we work our way up to the noble goal of tranquil wisdom.
  • The greater part of humanity is too much harassed and fatigued by the struggle with want, to rally itself for a new and sterner struggle with error. Satisfied if they themselves can escape from the hard labour of thought, they willingly abandon to others the guardianship of their thoughts.


  • Every sect, as one knows, is a ground of error; there are no sects of geometers, algebraists, arithmeticians, because all the propositions of geometry, algebra and arithmetic are true. In every other science one may be deceived.
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, “Tolerance”

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