Today’s Thoughtlet is a quote on freedom of expression that originates with Tacitus, a Roman historian who lived in the first century CE. This quote, translated as follows, appears in Latin on the title page of the first edition of Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature,
“Seldom are men blessed with times in which they may think what they like, and say what they think.” (Hume, 32-33)Hume, David. Ernest C. Mossner, ed. A Treatise of Human Nature. Penguin Classics, 1985. (First published 1739.)
It’s interesting that nearly 1600 years after it’s expression, Hume found the quote pertinent to his own work. And that nearly 300 years after Hume’s use, the quote resonates with contemporary authors and audiences. If, cf Hume, the future resembles the past, should we expect that 300 years from now our decedents find the quote inconceivable? Mind you, there is some ambiguity in this question; e.g. “seldom” may be a blessing compared with “at no time”, or “seldom” might seem draconian compared with “at all times.” Ah, well. None reading this today will be around to see how things play out.