Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses
is a quote
often attributed to the Latin philosopher Boethius
of the late fifth and early sixth centuries. It translates literally as, "If you had been silent, you would have remained a philosopher." The phrase illustrates a common use of the subjunctive
verb mood. Among other functions it expresses actions contrary to fact.
The phrase is identified with Boethius' seminal work, The Consolations of Philosophy. It is interesting, however, that from my research it doesn't actually appear anywhere in the text. There is a section of the second book, prose seven, which contains the phrase, "Iam tandem", inquit, "intellegis me esse philosophum?" Tum ille nimium mordaciter: "Intellexeram", inquit, "si tacuisses". This translates as, "Now, at last," he said, "do you know me to be a philosopher?" Then he (someone else) with excessive venom replied, "I would have, had you remained silent."
This is probably from whence the quote came. The context is a short parable told by Boethius of two men, one of whom was falsely claiming to be a philosopher in order to seek fame and reputation (instead of true virtue). The other man saw through the ruse and sought to prove his companion a deceiver by attacking him with vicious insults. If the so-called philosopher bore them with patience and meekness, then he was a real philosopher. The poser did actually bare the vitriol for awhile, but soon enough asked in exasperation, "Do you finally see now that I'm a philosopher?" To which, of course, his friend replied. "I would have, had you remained silent."
Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses is a nice, witty summarization of the incident, if not Boethius' original words.