The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Monday, January 23, 2006


One of my great philosophical heros--Mortimer Adler--led a massive research project to index the 54-volume Great Books of the Western World to 102 key "Great Ideas" (one was later added). The effort landed him on the cover of Time magazine (would that intellectual enthusiasm could still catch the attention of the Press). The index--called the Syntopicon--allows you to look up any one of the Great Ideas--Democracy, say--and see what has been said about it from Homer to Freud.

I'm reading a book manuscript the subject of which is *error*. It got me thinking about writing a little history of error. We don't often like to talk about our errors, but most major philosophers have mentioned it at some point. I can't think of many literary references, but I'm sure they're out there. If it were a popular book, it would be called _Oops! The Secret Life of Error_ if it were an unpopular book I'd call it _The Etiology of Error_.

Etymologically, the word comes from the Latin "ero, erare, eravi, eratus" which is sometimes translated "sin". I may never write that book, but it would be an interesting meditation to think about how humans are apt to make errors: to er is human after all. Today "error" conjures "mistake" which sounds more excusable than "sin". The reality, however, is that many of our mistakes are the result of negligence. I'm going to try to pay attention to my mistakes over the next week and see if I notice any patterns or common causes.


At Monday, January 23, 2006 2:15:00 PM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

Ha! I erred in my spelling of "err"! How grand! I have the ability to correct it in the post, but it was to much a felix culpa to erase.


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