Page images
PDF
EPUB

estimated ; and whatever conduces to establish or confirm it, should be sedulously fostered. In our state of civilization, all questions have become complex. Hence, an earnest desire to learn all the facts, to consider all the principles, which rightfully go to modify conclusions, is a copious and unfailing source of practical wisdom. Error often comes, not from any mistake in our judgments, upon the premises given ; but from omitting views. as much belonging to the subject, as those which are considered. We often see inen, who will develop one part of a case with signal ability, and yet are always in the wrong, because they overlook other parts, equally essential to a sound result. Thus error becomes the consequence of seeing only parts of truth. Often, the want of the hundredth part to make a whole, renders the possession of the other ninetynine valueless. If one planet were left out of our astronomical computations, the motions of the solar system could not be explained, though all about the others were perfectly known. Children, therefore, should not only be taught, but habituated, as far as possible, to compass the subject of inquiry, to explore its less obvious parts, and, if I may so speak, to circumnavigate it; so that their minds will be impatient of a want of completeness and thoroughness, and will resent one-sided views and half-representations. Merely a habit of mind in a child of seeking for well connected, wellproportioned views, would give the surest augury of a great inan. Now, if there be such a tendency in the human mind, urging it to search out the totality of any subject, and rewarding success, not only with utility, but with a lively pleasure, is not the read. ing pupil defrauded both of the benefit and the enjoyment, by having his mind forcibly transferred, in rapid succession, from a few glimpses of one subject to as few glimpses of another ? On Jooking into a majority of the reading books in our schools, I believe it will be found, that they contain more separate pieces than leaves. Often, these pieces are antipodal to each other in style, treatment and subject. There is a solemn inculcation of the doctrine of universal peace on one page, and a martial, slaughter-breathing poem on the next. I have a reading book, in which a catalogue of the names of all the books of ihe Old and New Testaments is followed immediately, and on the same page, by a receipt to make good red ink.” But what is worst of all is, that the lessons, generally, have not, in any logical sense, either a beginning or an end. They are splendid passages, carved out of an eloquent oration or sermon, without premises or conclusion ;-a page of compressed thought, taken from a didactic poem, without the slightest indication of the systein of doctrines embodied in the whole ;-extracts from forensic arguments, without any statement of the facts of the case, so that the imagination of the young reader is inflamed, while those faculties which determine the fitness and relevancy of the advocate's appeals are wholly unexercised ;-forty or fifty lines of the tenderest pathos, unaccompanied by any circumstances, tending to awaken sympathy, and leaving ihe children to guess both at cause and consolation ;-and while no dramatist dares violate an absurd rule, that every tragedy written for the stage, shall have five acts, a single isolated scene, taken from the middle of one of them, seems to be considered a fair proportion for a child. Probably in a school of an average number of scholars, three or four of these pieces would be read at each exercise, so that, even if the pieces were intelligible by themselves, the contradictory impressions will effeclually neutralize each other. Surely, is, according to Lord Kaimes, there be an innate desire or propensity to finish, we should expect that the children would man. ifest it, in such cases, by desiring to have done with the book forever.

Art. II.-SCHOOL OF PLATO AT ATHENS.

[Translated from the German of Tenneman, by Prof. Edwards of Andover.)

When Plato had completed his travels and had reached the end of their various dangers and calamities, he returned to Athens and began publicly to teach philosophy in the acadeiny. He had here a garden from his paternal inheritance, which was purchased for five hundred drachmae.* If now the story about Anniceris be true, Plato must have had two gardens in this place, which also a passage from Diogenes allows us to conjecture. This writer remarks that Plato taught philosophy first in the academy, but afterwards in a garden at Colonus.f His academy very soon became celebrated and was quite numerously attended by high-born and able young men, for he had before, by means of his travels, and probably by some publications, acquired a distinguished name. He might indeed have taught some persons in philosophy before he founded his academy, for he

Apul. 367. Plut. de Exilio, 603, says it was bought for 3000 drachmae. But I conjecture that the Transcriber read y, instead of t. [The drachma is reckoned at 8 cents.]

+ Diog. III, 5.

says in a letter to Dionysius, which might have been written about the one hundred and fourth Olympiad, th it some persons for thirty years had reflected on his philosophy. * As Plato came to Syracuse about the ninetyeighth Olympiad, he could not have commenced teaching in the academy till about the ninetyninth Olympiad. The names of his most celebrated disciples are known, so that I need not stop to mention them. The regulation of his school and his mode of teaching were regarded by ancient writers as circunstances so unimportant, that they passed them by almost in sitence. By a diligent investigation, I have been able to bring together nothing more than some disconnected accounts, which I here communicate in the hope that intelligent men may employ their talents in uniting these detached fraginents into one whole.

Plato in teaching pursued a method altogether different from Socrates, inasmuch as his philosophy, in its contents, extent, form and object was very far removed from the Socratic. Socrates wished to quicken and develop the moral feeling. This object he could accomplish in no better manner than by his own ability to exert a direct infuence on the hearts of his disciples by means of conversations. Plato, on the contrary, rather labored to give his philosophy a systematic form, since he considered it proved that all knowledge and action must rest on certain grounds which philosohpy only could establish. The doctrines of Socrates were of common practical utility, and designed for universal application; to them was fitted a popular delivery. Plato's philosophy, for the most part, was not intended for the public, inasmuch as it contained the scientific grounds of theoretical and practical philosophy, whose results Socrates communicated in the way of conversation. Hence Socrates was a teacher of the people; while Plato founded a school for those who would educate themselves as philosophers. Consequently he could not, as his teacher had done, go round to the public resorts, but he taught in a fixed place." Ought he not, however, at least to have made the attempt to bring publicly before the great mass of the people some results of his philosophizing, which he regarded as truths generally necessary and fitted to the dignity of man? I find in The

[blocks in formation]

mistius a few notices that he actually did something of this sort, and that he lectured in the Piraeus on goodness, but that he found no adequate encouragement in the mass of people who ran together, and who left him also as rapidly as they had collected.* Whether this statement is authentic I cannot say. Plato's establishment very much resembled the Pythagorean school; it had, however, its peculiarities. He required of his pupils no oath of secrecy, and he taught before no fixed circle, not even in a closed chamber.t Every body had access. In the mean time, whenever he felt obliged to animadvert on various errors in the religion of the people, and to lay down many positions which were contrary to the orthodox system, he was compelled, in order to avoid the perils with which freedom of thought had so often to contend, either to expound at certain hours his esoteric philosophy to his own pupils only, or to communicate it simply in a written form. We learn from Aristotle, that he gave such a sketch of his esoteric philosophy. I

In respect to the method which he pursued in his philosophical statements, I find two contrary opinions. Brucker believes that it was not different from the one which we find in his writings. Meiners, on the contrary, maintains that he adopted the manner of the sophists. But we here want definite information, so that we cannot decide positively respecting it. In the mean time, though Plato did not expound his system by means of conversations, but in connected discourses, still it is not probable that he would declaim exactly in the manner of the sophists, inasmuch as his design was not to excite astonishment, or to make use of persuasion, but to convince by arguments. || Hence it is to me at least evident, that his method was the dialogistic, if not universally, still in certain cases, especially in the presence of recently admitted scholars. It was customary then to teach philosophy by means of questions and answers, and no other mode of instruction was fitted so well to his doctrines respecting ideas. It seems that Plato always examined new students in order to ascertain whether they were furnished with the necessary qualifications. This examination consisted in his presenting to them before everything else

+ Olymp.

* Orat. XXI. edit. Harduini, 145.
Aristot. Physic. IV. 2. § Epist. 2. 70, 72.

|| Epist. 2. 70.

the excellence of philosophy, and also the difficulties with which one must struggle, and the exertions which he must make, in order to obtain possession of it. If by such representations, the desire was not suppressed but rather strengthened, if zeal and unquenchable interest gleamed forth, he regarded it as a good omen, and believed that such pupils had the talents and dispositions to dedicate themselves to philosophy.* Perhaps he gave to them certain propositions and problems, and allowed them to make trial of their powers, so that they might see whether they could search out in their own reflection, the necessary arguments and proofs. This exertion, this calling to self-reflection was a part of the examination to which he subjected new pupils. The study of the mathematics was regarded as a preparatory exercise to philosophy, as it accustomed the mind to self-knowledge, and, what Plato particularly valued, to the use of the pure reason. According to Brucker, Plato required of his pupils that they should make themselves perfectly acquainted with mathematics before they commenced the study of philosophy. But though he has brought no definite testimony in favor of this conclusion, still every one will think it probable that Plato gave instructions to his disciples in this science, since it has so intimate a connection with philosophy, and since he was not far from being the greatest mathematician of his time.

The Platonic school had some resemblance to the Pythagorean, inasmuch as the improvement of the heart was united with the cultivation of the understanding. For this purpose, Pythagoras had introduced a kind of orderly arrangement which required of the members a strict observance of certain rules, and by means of subordination and discipline which were inseparably attendant, he exercised control over them. Plato did not adopt this regulation, but followed, in respect to it, an entirely different maxim. Without giving himself the air and appearance of a king, who is used only to command, he sought to educate the moral character of his friends and to amend their faults, while by means of arguments, admonitions and his own example, he influenced their mode of thinking and action in a way which was consistent with their native rights and personal freedom. By

[blocks in formation]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »