Dusty Phrases

Hi! Welcome to “Dusty Phrases.” You will find below an ancient phrase in one language or another, along with its English translation. You may also find the power to inspire your friends or provoke dread among your enemies.

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Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur


The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived

It seems an evil to give one what he wants, if the thing he wants is an evil. On the other hand, who deserves an evil more than one who desires it?

The origin of this phrase is unknown and long disputed. From wiki:

Some claim that the 1st century satirist Petronius originated this expression, but it appears nowhere in the surviving copies of his work.

Various claims have been made as to the phrase’s origin:

  • Mundus vult decipi.” Sebastian FranckParadoxa Ducenta Octoginta, CCXXXVIII (1542) “The world loves to be deceived.”
  • Augustine of Hippo], lib. 4. de civitat. Deicap. 27. censures ‘ Scævola saying and acknowledging expedire civitates religione falli, that it was a fit thing [that] cities should be deceived by religion, according to the diverbSi mundus vult decipi, decipiatur, if the world will be gulled, let it be gulled, ’tis good howsoever to keep it in subjection.” (Robert BurtonThe Anatomy of Melancholy, first published 1621) 
  • “The pontifex maximus Scævola thought it expedient that the people should be deceived in religion; and the learned Varro said plainly, that there are many truths which it is useless for the vulgar to know; and many falsities which it is fit the people should not suppose are falsities. (Note: Vid Augustin. de civ. Dei, B. 4 […].) Hence comes the adage “Mundus vult decipi, decipiatur ergo.”

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