February 01, 2011

Sapere aude

Recording also available at iPadio using this link.

Today's saying is Sapere aude. In English: "Dare to be wise."

This is a saying that shows up in Horace's Epistles, where Horace describes a man who sits by the side of a stream, waiting and waiting for the water to stop running before he attempts to cross. No, says Horace: make your move now, dare to be wise; don't wait for tomorrow, or else life itself will pass you by. This excellent advice reminds me of Carol Dweck's theory of educational mindsets. Some people embrace what Dweck calls a growth mind set: they are ready to take on new challenges, instead of avoiding them; to keep on going when things get difficult, instead of just giving up; to regard effort as a way to make progress towards a goal instead of resenting that effort; to value criticism and feedback instead of fearing or ignoring it; and to be inspired by the success of others, rather than feeling jealous or threatened. In other words: dare yourself to get smart, dare to be wise, sapere aude.

In terms of Latin vocabulary, this verb sapere literally means to "taste," to have the taste or flavor of something. From this notion of "savoring" or "tasting," the verb comes to mean to have a discerning sense of taste, to be sensible, to be discerning in general and, thus, to be wise. For a sense of the range of interrelated meanings of this verb, take a look at the entry in Lewis & Short's Latin Dictionary online at Glossa.

For those of you who are fans of macrons, here is the Latin written with macrons:

Sapere audē.


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