Quotes about mistakes

A collection of quotes on the topic of error.

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Otto von Bismarck photo

„Not by speeches and votes of the majority are the great questions of the time decided — that was the error of 1848 and 1849 — but by iron and blood.“

—  Otto von Bismarck German statesman, Chancellor of Germany 1815 - 1898

Nicht durch Reden und Majoritätsbeschlüsse werden die großen Fragen der Zeit entschieden — daß ist der große Fehler von 1848 und 1849 gewesen — sondern durch Eisen und Blut.
Variant translations :
: It is not by speeches and majority vote that the great questions of our time will be decided — as that was error of 1848 and 1849 — but rather by iron and blood.
The great questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions — that was the error of 1848 and 1849 — but by iron and blood.
The great issues of the day are not decided through speeches and majority resolutions — that was the great error of 1848 and 1849 — but through blood and iron.
The great questions of the day will not be decided by speeches and the resolutions of majorities — that was the great mistake from 1848 to 1849 — but by blood and iron.
The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions … but by iron and blood.
Speech to the Budget Commission of the Prussian Diet (30 September 1862), published in Fürst Bismarck als Redner, Vol. 2 (after 1881), edited by Wilhelm Böhm, p. 12 http://books.google.de/books?id=3WsIAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA12); after some objections to his initial speech Bismarck returned to the podium and declared:
::Auswärtige Conflicte zu suchen, um über innere Schwierigkeiten hinwegzukommen, dagegen müsse er sich verwahren; das würde frivol sein; er wolle nicht Händel suchen ; er spreche von Conflicten, denen wir nicht entgehen würden, ohne daß wir sie suchten.
:: I must protest that I would never seek foreign conflicts just to go over domestic difficulties; that would be frivolous. I was speaking of conflicts that we could not avoid, even though we do not seek them.
::* Die Reden des Ministerpräsidenten von Bismarck-Schönhausen im Preußischen Landtage 1862-1865 (1903) edited by Horst Kohl, p. 31
1860s

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe photo

„It is the most foolish of all errors for young people of good intelligence to imagine that they will forfeit their originality if they acknowledge truth already acknowledged by others.“

—  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe German writer, artist, and politician 1749 - 1832

Der thörigste von allen Irrthümern ist, wenn junge gute Köpfe glauben, ihre Originalität zu verlieren, indem sie das Wahre anerkennen, was von andern schon anerkannt worden.
Maxim 254, trans. Stopp
Maxims and Reflections (1833)

Alfred Jodl photo
Omar Khayyám photo

„Allah, perchance, the secret word might spell;
If Allah be, He keeps His secret well;
  What He hath hidden, who shall hope to find?
Shall God His secret to a maggot tell?

The Koran! well, come put me to the test—
Lovely old book in hideous error drest—
  Believe me, I can quote the Koran too,
The unbeliever knows his Koran best.

And do you think that unto such as you,
A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew,
  God gave the secret, and denied it me?—
Well, well, what matters it! believe that too.“

—  Omar Khayyám, book Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

Omar Khayyám, Rubaiyat (1048–1123), translation by Richard Le Gallienne
Well, well, what matters it! believe that too. note: Not a literal translation of Omar Khayyám's work, but a paraphrase according to Richard Le Gallienne own understanding.
Source: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/525669afe4b0b689af6075bc/t/525e8a8ee4b0f0a0fb6fa309/1381927566101/Talib+--+Le+Gallienne%27s+Paraphrase+and+the+Limits+of+Translation+from+FitzGerald+Rubaiyat+volume.pdf pp. 175-176


https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/fitzgeralds-rubaiyat-of-omar-khayyam/le-galliennes-paraphrase-and-the-limits-of-translation/CC05D35479CE33C2E66ABA8CF51F779B Le Gallienne's Paraphrase and the Limits of Translation']' by Adam Talib

Paul Valéry photo

„For the musician, before he has begun his work, all is in readiness so that the operation of his creative spirit may find, right from the start, the appropriate matter and means, without any possibility of error.“

—  Paul Valéry French poet, essayist, and philosopher 1871 - 1945

Originally delivered as a lecture (late 1927); Pure Poetry: Notes for a Lecture The Creative Vision (1960)
Context: For the musician, before he has begun his work, all is in readiness so that the operation of his creative spirit may find, right from the start, the appropriate matter and means, without any possibility of error. He will not have to make this matter and means submit to any modification; he need only assemble elements which are clearly defined and ready-made. But in how different a situation is the poet! Before him is ordinary language, this aggregate of means which are not suited to his purpose, not made for him. There have not been physicians to determine the relationships of these means for him; there have not been constructors of scales; no diapason, no metronome, no certitude of this kind. He has nothing but the coarse instrument of the dictionary and the grammar. Moreover, he must address himself not to a special and unique sense like hearing, which the musician bends to his will, and which is, besides, the organ par excellence of expectation and attention; but rather to a general and diffused expectation, and he does so through a language which is a very odd mixture of incoherent stimuli.

Leonardo Da Vinci photo
Henri Laborit photo

„What fundamental biological principle gives the largest number the right to think they are preserved from error?“

—  Henri Laborit French physician, writer and philosopher 1914 - 1995

Mais en vertu de quel principe biologique fondamental, le plus grand nombre serait-il préservé de l’erreur?
L'Homme imaginant: essai de biologie politique (1970), p. 36

Max Planck photo

„A new scientific truth does not generally triumph by persuading its opponents and getting them to admit their errors, but rather by its opponents gradually dying out and giving way to a new generation that is raised on it. … An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning: another instance of the fact that the future lies with the youth.“

—  Max Planck German theoretical physicist 1858 - 1947

Eine neue wissenschaftliche Wahrheit pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, daß ihre Gegner überzeugt werden und sich als belehrt erklären, sondern vielmehr dadurch, daß ihre Gegner allmählich aussterben und daß die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Wahrheit vertraut gemacht ist. … Eine neue große wissenschaftliche Idee pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, daß ihre Gegner allmählich überzeugt und bekehrt werden — daß aus einem Saulus ein Paulus wird, ist eine große Seltenheit —, sondern vielmehr in der Weise, dass die Gegner allmählich aussterben und daß die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Idee vertraut gemacht wird. Auch hier heißt es wieder: Wer die Jugend hat, der hat die Zukunft.
Wissenschaftliche Selbstbiographie. Mit einem Bildnis und der von Max von Laue gehaltenen Traueransprache. Johann Ambrosius Barth Verlag (Leipzig 1948), p. 22, in Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, (1949), as translated by F. Gaynor, pp. 33–34, 97 (as cited in T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Translation revised by Eric Weinberger.

Takeda Shingen photo
Emil M. Cioran photo

„Philosophy's error is to be too endurable.“

—  Emil M. Cioran Romanian philosopher and essayist 1911 - 1995

All Gall Is Divided (1952)

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Bertolt Brecht photo
Alexander Hamilton photo

„I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man. The result of the deliberations of all collective bodies must necessarily be a compound, as well of the errors and prejudices, as of the good sense and wisdom, of the individuals of whom they are composed.“

—  Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Papers

No. 85
The Federalist Papers (1787–1788)
Context: I should esteem it the extreme of imprudence to prolong the precarious state of our national affairs, and to expose the Union to the jeopardy of successive experiments, in the chimerical pursuit of a perfect plan. I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man. The result of the deliberations of all collective bodies must necessarily be a compound, as well of the errors and prejudices, as of the good sense and wisdom, of the individuals of whom they are composed.

Walter O'Brien photo
Bjarne Stroustrup photo

„The connection between the language in which we think/program and the problems and solutions we can imagine is very close. For this reason restricting language features with the intent of eliminating programmer errors is at best dangerous.“

—  Bjarne Stroustrup Danish computer scientist, creator of C++ 1950

Bjarne Stroustrup's The C++ Programming Language (Third Edition and Special Edition) Notes to the Reader page 9, 2012-04-28, http://web.archive.org/web/20091128074415/http://www2.research.att.com/~bs/3rd_notes.pdf#page=7, 2009-11-28 http://www2.research.att.com/~bs/3rd_notes.pdf#page=7,

Louis Aragon photo
Anaïs Nin photo
Jean-François Revel photo
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot photo

„Be guided by feeling alone. We are only simple mortals, subject to error; so listen to the advice of others, but follow only what you understand and can unite in your own feeling.“

—  Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot French landscape painter and printmaker in etching 1796 - 1875

Quote from Corot's 'Notebooks', ca. 1856, as quoted in Artists on Art – from the 14th – 20th centuries, ed. by Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves; Pantheon Books, 1972, London, p. 241
1850s

Huldrych Zwingli photo

„Balthasar of Waldshit has fallen into prison here - a man not merely irreverent and unlearned, but even empty. Learn the sum of the matter. When he came to Zurich our Council fearing lest he should cause a commotion ordered him to be taken into custody. Since, however, he had once in freakishness of disposition and fatuity, lurked out in Waldshut against our Council, of which place he, by the gods, was a guardian [i. e., he has pastor there], until the stupid fellow disunited and destroyed everything, it was determined that I should discuss with him in a friendly manner the baptising of infants and Catabaptists, as he earnestly begged first from prison and afterwards from custody. I met the fellow and rendered him mute as a fish. The next day he recited a recantation in the presence of certain Councillors appointed for the purpose [which recantation when repeated to the Two Hundred it was ordered should be publicly made Therefore having started to write it in the city, he gave it to the Council with his own hand, with all its silliness, as he promised. At length he denied that he had changed his opinion, although he had done so before a Swiss tribunal, which with us is a capital offence, affirming that his signature had been extorted from him by terror, which was most untrue].
The council was so unwilling that force should be used on him that when the Emperor or Ferdinand twice asked that the fellow be given to him it refused the request. Indeed he was not taken prisoner that he might suffer the penalty of his boldness in the baptismal matter, but to prevent his causing in secret some confusion, a thing he delighted to do. Then he angered the Council; for there were present most upright Councillors who had witnessed his most explicit and unconstrained withdrawal, and had refused to hand to him over to the cruelty of the Emperor, helping themselves with my aid. The next day he was thrust back into prison and tortured. It is clear that the man had become a sport for demons, so he recanted not frankly as he had promised, nay he said that he entertained no other opinions than those taught by me, execrated the error and obstinacy of the Catabaptists, repeated this three times when stretched on the racks, and bewailed his misery and the wrath of God which in this affair was so unkind. Behold what wantonness! Than these men there is nothing more foolhardy, deceptive infamous - for I cannot tell you what they devise in Abtzell - and shameless. Tomorrow or next day the case will come up.“

—  Huldrych Zwingli leader of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland, and founder of the Swiss Reformed Churches 1484 - 1531

Letter to Capito, January 1, 1526 (Staehelin, Briefe ausder Reformationseit, p. 20), ibid, p. 249-250

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“