Famous Misquotations: It is the Mark of an Educated Mind…

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsA common quotation attributed to Aristotle is: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” A great observation, to be sure; however, as is often the case regarding quotations that circulate on the Internet, the person, in this case Aristotle, never said it or wrote it.

The earliest that this quotation appears in print is in Religion and the Pursuit of Truth (1959) by Lowell Bennion. On page 52 of the book, Bennion writes: “In this general approach to the subject of science and religion, the writer does not wish to be misleading. There will continue to be conflict in the minds of those who give earnest thought to both fields. Now and then one may have to choose between the two fields. However, much of the conflict is unnecessary and can be resolved… if he will follow the wisdom of Aristotle’s thought, ‘It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it’ (or rejecting it, one might add).”

It’s anyone’s guess where Bennion read that sentence in Aristotle’s writings — or what he was smoking when he misread the relevant passage. One can only assume it is a rather radical paraphrase of the actual sentence that appears in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Book 1, 1094a.18, translated by W. D. Ross), albeit with a very different meaning: “It is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs.”

Perhaps if Aristotle were alive today he would remark, “It is the mark of an educated mind not to believe everything you read on the Internet.”

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For further reading: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life

Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting

For further reading: They Never Said It: A Book of Fake, Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions by Paul Boller, Jr. and John George

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

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