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Sometimes these were assigned to the boys as single subjects of a theine or declamation ; so the same poet speaks sarcaslcally to Hannibal,
- l demens, ot saevas curre per Alpes,
To please the boys, sod be a theme at school. See more of this matter in Kennet's Antiquities of Rome, in the second Essay on the Roman Education.
CHAP. XIII.-Of Academic or Scholastic Disputation.
THE common methods in which disputes are managed in the Schools of Learning, are these, viz.
I. The tutor appoints a question in some of the sciences to be debated among his students : one of them undertakes to affirm or to deny the question, and to defend his assertion or negation, and to answer all objections against it; he is called the respondent ; and the rest of the students in the same class, or who pursue the same science, are the opponents, who are appointed to dispute or raise objections against the proposition thus affirme, ed or denied.
II. Each of the students successively in their turn becomes the respondent or the defender of that proposition, while the rest oppose it also successively in their turns.
III. It is the business of the respondent to write a thesis in Latio, or short discourse of the question proposed; and be either affirms or denies the question according to the opinion of the tutor, which is supposed to be the truth, and he reads it at the beginning of the dispute.
IV. In his discourse (which is written with as great accuracy as the youth is capable of) he explains the terms of the ques. tion, frees them from all ambiguity, fixes their sense, declares the true intent and meaning of the question itself, separates it from other questions with which it may have been complicated, and distinguishes it froin other questions which may happen to be a-kin to it, and then pronounces in the negative or affirmative concerning it.
V. When this is done, then in the second part of his discourse, he gives his own strongest arguments to confirm the proposition he has laid down, that is, to vindicate his own side of the question : but he does not usually proceed to represent the objections against it, and to solve or answer them; for
It is the business of the other students to raise objections in disputing.
VI. Note, In some schools, the respondent is admitted to talk largely upon the question with many fourishes and illus-. trations, to introduce great authorities from ancient and modern writings for the support of it, and to scatter Latin reproaches in abundance on all those who are of a different sentiment. But this is not always perunitted, nor should it indeed be ever indulged, lest it teach youth to reproach instead of reasoning.
VII. When the respondent has read over his thesis in the school, the junior student makes an objection, and draws it up in the regular form of a syllogism : the respondent repeats the objection, and either denies the major or minor proposition directly, or he distinguishes upon some word or phrase in the major or minor, and shews in what sense the proposition may be true, but that that sense does not affect the question ; and then declares that in the sense which affects the present question the proposition is not true, and consequently he denies it.
VIII. Then the opponent proceeds by another syllogism to vindicate the proposition that is denied : again the respondent answers by denying or distinguishing. Thus the disputation goes on in a series or succession of syllogisms and answers, till the objector is silenced, and has no more to say.
IX. When he can go no further, the next student begins to propose his objection, and then the third and the fourth, even to the senior, who is the last opponent.
X. During this time, the tutor sits in the choir as President or Moderator, to see that the rules of disputation and decency be observed on both sides; and to admonish each disputant of ang irregularity in their conduct. His work is also to illustrate and explain the answer or distinction of the respondent where it is obscure, to strengthen it where it is weak, and to correct it where it is false; and when the respondent is pinched with a strong objection, and is at a loss for an answer, the moderator assists him, and suggests some answer to the objection of the opponent, in defence of the question, according to his own opinion or sentiment.
XI. In public disputes, where the opponents and respondents chuse their own side of the question, the moderator's work is not to favour either disputant; but he only sits as president to see that the laws of disputation be observed, and a decorum maintained.
XII. Now the laws of disputation, relate either to the opponent, or to the respondent, or to both. The laws obliging the opponent are these,
caltack propositiondent, 20 the fortion of
1. That he must directly contradict the proposition of the respondent, and not inerely attack any of the arguments whereby the respondent bas supported that proposition : for it is one thing to confute a single argument of the respondent, and another to confute the thesis itself. 2. (Which is a-kin to the former) he must contradict or oppose the very sense and intention of the proposition as the respondent has stated it, and not merely oppose the words of the thesis in any other sense ; for this would be the way to plunge the dispute into ambiguity and darkness to talk beside the question, to wrangle about words, and to attack a proposition different from what the respondent bas espoused which is called Ignoratio elenchi. 3. He must propose his argument in a plain, short, and syllogistic form, according to the rules of logic, without flying to fallacies or sophisms; and as far as may be, he should use categorical syllogisins. 4. Though the respondent may be attacked either upon a point of his own concession, which is called Argumentum ex concessis, or by reducing him to an absurdity, which is called Reductio ad absurdum, yet it is the neatest, the most useful, and the best sort of disputation wbere the opponent draws his objections from the nature of the question itself. 5. Where the respondent denies any proposition, the opponent if be proceed, must directly vindicate and confirm that proposition, that is, he must make that proposition the conclusion of his next syllogism. 6. Where the respondent limits or distinguishes any proposition, the opponent must directly prove his own proposition in that sense, and according to that inember of the distinction in which the respondent denied it.
XIII. The laws that oblige the respondent are these :
1. To repeat the argument of the opponent in the very same words in which it was proposed, before he attempts to answer it. 2. If the syllogism be false in the logical form of it, he must discover the fault according to the rules of logic. 3. If the argument does not directly and effectually oppose his thesis, he must shew this mistake, and make it appear that his thesis is safe, even though the argument of the opponent be admitted : or at least, that the argument does only aim at ii collaitrally, or at a distance, and not directly overthrow it, or conclude against it. 4. Where the matter of the opponent's objection is faulty in any part of it, the respondent must grant what is true in it, he must deny what is false, he must distinguish or limit the proposition which is ambiguous or doubtful; aud then granting the sense in which it is true, he must deny the sense in which it is false. 5. If an hypothetic proposition be false, the respondent must deny the consequence: if a disjunctive, he must deny the disjunction : if a categoric or relative, he must simply deny it. 6. It is sometimes allowed for the respondent to use an
indirect answer after he has answered directly: and he may also shew how the opponent's argument may be retorted against himself.
XIV. The laws thut oblige both disputants are these :
1. Sometimes it is necessary there should be a mention of certain general principles in which they both agree, relating to the question, that so they may not dispute on those things which either are or ought to have been first granted on both sides. 2. When the state of the controversy is well known, and plainly de. termined and agreed, it must not be altered by either disputant in the course of the disputation; and the respondent especially should keep a watchful eye on the opponent in this matter. 3. Let neither party invade the province of the other ; especially let the respondent take heed that he does not turn opponent ; except. in retorting tbe argument upon bis adversary, after a direct response; and even this is allowed only as an illustration or confirmation of his own response. 4. Let each wait with patience till the other has done speaking. It is a piece of rudeness to interrupt another in his speech.
Yet though the disputants have not this liberty, the moderator may do it, when either of the disputants break the rules, and he way interpose so far as to keep them to order. • XV. It must be confessed there are some advantages to be attained by academical disputation. It gives vigour and briskness to the mind thus exercised, and relieves the langour of pri
vate study and meditation. It sharpens the wit and all the in· ventive powers. It makes the thoughts active, and sends them
on all sides to find arguments and answers both for opposition and defence. It gives opportunity of viewing the subject of discourse on all sides, and of learning what inconveniences, difficulties and objections attend particular opinions. It furnishes the soul with various occasions of starting such thoughts as otherwise would never have come into the mind. It inakes a student more expert in attacking and refuting an error, as well as in vindicating a truth. It instructs the scholar in the various methods of warding off the force of objections, and of discovering and repelling the subtle tricks of sophisters. It procures also a freedoin and readiness of speech, and raises the modest and diffident genius to a due degree of courage.
XVI. But there are some very grievous inconveniences that may sometimes overbalance all these advantages. For many young students by a constant hubit of disputing, grow impudent and audacious, proud and disdainful, talkative and impertinent, aud render themselves intolerable by au obstinate humour of maiotaining whatever they bave asserted, as well as by a spirit of contradiction, opposing almost every thing that they hear. The disputation itself often awakeus tie passions of ambition,
emulation and anger ; it carries away the mind from that calm and sedate temper which is so necessary to contemplate truth. '
XVII. It is evident also, that by frequent exercises of this sort, wherein opinions true and false are argued, supported and refuted on both sides ; the mind of man is led by insensible de. grees to an uncertain and Nuctuating temper, and falls into dan. ger of a sceptical humour, which never comes to an establishment in any doctrines. Many persons by this means become much inore ready to oppose whatsoever is offered in searching out truth; they hardly wait till they have read or heard the sentiment of any person, before their heads are busily employed 10 seek out arguments against it. They grow naturally sharp in finding out difficulties : and by indulging this humour, they converse with the dark and doubtful parts of a subject so long, till they almost render themselves incapable of receiving the full evidence of a proposition, and acknowledging the light of truth. It has some tendency to make a youth a carping critic, rather than a judicious man.
XVIII. I would add yet further, that in these disputations the respondent is generally appointed to maintain the supposed truth, that is, the tutor's opinion. But all the opponents are busy and warmly engaged in finding arguments against the truth. Now if a sprightly young genius happens to manage his argument so well as to puzzle and gravel the respondent, and perhaps to perplex the moderator a little too, he is soon tempted to suppose bis argument unanswerable, and the truth entirely to lie on his side. The pleasure which he takes in having found a sophisın wbich has great appearance of reason, and which he bimself has managed with such success, becoines perbaps a strong prejudice to engage his inward sentiments in favour of his argument, and in opposition to the supposed truth.
XIX. Yet perhaps it may be possible to reduce scholastic disputations under such a guard, as may in some ineasure prevent most of these abuses of them, and the unhappy events that 100 often attend them : for it is pity that an exercise which has some valuable benefits attending it, should be utterly thrown away, if it be possible to secure young minds against the abuse of it.; for which purpose soine of these directions inay seem proper.
XX. “ General directions for scholastic disputes."
I. Never dispute upon mere trifies, things that are ulterly useless to be known, under a vain pretence of sharpening the wil: for the same advantage may be derived from solid and useful subjects, and thus two happy ends may be attained at once. Or if such disputations are always thought dangerous in important matters, let them be utterly abandoned.
2. Do not make infinite und unsearchable things the matter of dispule, nor such propositions as are made up of were words