James Schmidt: Persistent Enlightenment

Sapere aude: incipe!
qui recte vivendi prorogat horam,
rusticus exspectat dum defluat amnis;
at ille labitur et labetur in omne volubilis aevum.
— Horace

Just came across James Schmidt’s (Professor of History, Philosophy, and Political Science at Boston University) blog, Persistent Enlightenment . I already learned something from his first post about Kant’s use of the term from Horace: Sapere aude: incipe! For many of us this has always been translated as Dare to know! But after reading the professor’s short post I discovered a new twist, and one that I think took even him by surprise (having learned from another professor, Sean Goodlett) that the term “Dare to be wise: begin!” was the exact translation of this passage. Of course you’ll need to read the full post to get the details.

I love this sort of anecdotal posting, it gives you something to bite, in snapshots that allow you to want more, to open your mind to retrace the steps and reread such philosophers as Kant in a new light, knowing that what one at first presumed may have had other meanings altogether. This is what a good writer (in this case historian) should do make us think and go back to the originals and rethink their thoughts in a new light, with a new slant of tone and meaning. Our horizons are changed by a nudge if not by a hammer.

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