May 27, 2007

Sapientis est mutare consilium

In English: It is for the wise person to change his mind.

I'm carrying on with saying about wisdom and wise people, and I thought this would be a great addition. Being able to change your mind, especially to admit that you might have made a mistake, is a great sign of wisdom.

There are a wide range of variations on this saying that give some different nuances to the idea. Seneca, for example, tells us that it is not a shameful thing to change your mind depending on the situation, non est turpe cum re mutare consilium. Here Seneca emphasizes one factor that would lead a person to change his mind: the res, the situation, can change, necessitating a change in plans.

Publilius Syrus emphasizes that the nature of a good plan is that it is a plan that can be changed: Malum est consilium, quod mutari non potest, "A bad plan is one that cannot be changed." This is a saying that our President might do well to ponder these days. A variant on this particular saying insists that there is no plan that cannot be changed: Nullum consilium est quod mutari non potest.

Finally, my favorite variation on today's saying is one that highlights the contrast between the wise man on the one hand, and the foolish man on the other: Prudentis est mutare consilium; stultus sic luna mutatur, "It's for the prudent man to change his mind; the foolish man changes like the moon." So the idea is that you do not want to be constantly changing, as the moon does, different with every single passing day. You do need to be able to change your mind, though, if needed.

And here is today's proverb read out loud:

1244. Sapientis est mutare consilium.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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