Friday, July 3, 2009

Quotations from Dante - Be slow to judge

Unfortunately and too often we think that we are smarter than we really are, or that we know more than we really do, or that we reason better than is actually the case. The result is that we make mistakes in the judgments that we form. Dante warns us against this, putting the following into the mouth of Aquinas:

And to thy feet be this a hobble, wrought
Of lead, to make thee move at sluggard pace
Toward Yea or Nay where though perceivest naught,

For low among the dunces is his place
Who hastens to accept or to reject
With no distinction made 'twixt case and case;

Thence come rash judgements, mostly incorrect
And prejudiced, and stubborn all the more
That self-conceit shackles the intellect.

Worse than in vain does any quit the shore
To fish for truth, the fisher's art unknowing –
He'll not return the man he was before;


No one should be too self-assured
In judgement, like a farmer reckoning
His gains before the corn-crop is matured,


Let Jack and Jill not think they see so far
That, seeing this man pious, that a thief,
They see them such as in God's sight they are,

For one may rise, the other come to grief.

[Paradiso, XIII, 112-142 passim]

Amen. This is a hard thing. We are so quick to pass judgment, when we have no basis to do so. Lord, grant us grace to be humble and patient.

[As an aside, this hastiness seems to serve as a critique of the idea that we cannot trust our senses. The fact is that we trust them so completely, so implicitly, that we are ready and willing to jump to conclusions based upon what we have seen or heard or touched or felt, never mind even the possibility that we might be mistaken. But I digress.]

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