« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the opponent be admitted ; or at least that the argument does only aim at it collaterally, 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 ; and 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 that 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 determined 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 the argument upon his adversary after a direct
response ; and even this is allowed only as an illustration or conformation 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 thiş liberty, the mo
derator may do it, when either of the disputants breaks the rules, and he may 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 private study and meditation. It sharpens the wit and all the inventive 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 makes 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 refelling the subtile tricks of sophisters. It procures also a freedom 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 habit of disputing, grow impudent and audacious, proud and disdainful, talkative and impertinent, and render themselves intolerable by an obstinate humour of maintaining whatever they have asserted, as well as by a spirit of contradiction, opposing almost every thing that they hear. The disputation itself often awakens the passions of ambition, emulation, and anger; it carries
away the mind from that calin 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 degrees to an uncertain and fluctuating temper, and falls into danger of a sceptical humour, which never comes to an establishment in any doctrines. Many persons
by this means become much more 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 to 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 his argument unanswerable, and the truth entirely to lie on his side. The pleasure which he takes in having found a sophism which has great appearance of reason, and which he himself has managed with such success, becomes perhaps a strong prejudice to engage his inward sentiments in favour of his argument, and in opposition to the supposed truth.
XIX. Yer perhaps it may be possible to reduce scholastic disputations under such a guard, as may in some measure prevent most of these abuses of them, and the unhappy events that too often attend thems 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 some of these directions may seem proper.
XX. General directions for scholastic disputes. 1. Never dispute upon mere trifles, things that are utterly useless to be known, under a vain pretence of sharpening the wit : 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 and unsearchable things the matter of dispute, nor such propositions as are made up of mere words without ideas, lest it lead young persons into a most unhappy habit of talking without a meaning, and boldly determine upon things that are hardly within the reach of hu. man capacity.
3. Let not obvious and known truths, or some of the most plain and certain propositions be bandied about in a disputation for a mere trial of skill: for he that
opposes them in this manner will be in danger of contracting a habit of opposing all evidence, will acquire a spirit of contradiction, and pride himself in a power of resisting the brightest light, and fighting against the strongest proofs: this will insensibly injure the mind, and tend greatly to an universal scepticism.
Upon the whole, therefore, the most proper subjects of dispute seem to be those questions which are not of the very highest importance and certainty, nor of the meanest and trifling kind ; but rather the intermediate questions between these two; and there is a large sufficiency of them in the sciences. But this I put as a mere proposal, to be determined by the more learned and prudent.
4. It would be well if every dispute could be so ordered as to be a means of searching out truth, and not to gain a triumph. Then each disputant might come to the work without bias and prejudice, with a desire of truth, and not with ambition of glory and victory.
Nor should the aim and design of the respondent be to avoid artfully and escape the difficulties which the opponent offers, but to discuss them thoroughly, and solve them fairly, if they are capable of being solved.
Again, let the opponent be solicitous not to darken and confound the responses that are given him by fresh subtilties,
but let him bethink himself whether they are not a just answer to the objection, and be honestly ready to perceive, and accept them, and yield to them.
5. For this end let both the respondent and opponent use the clearest and most distinct and expressive language in which they can clothe their thoughts. Let them seek and practise brevity and perspicuity on both sides, without long declamations, tedious circumlocutions, and rhetorical flourishes.
If there happen to be any doubt or obscurity on either side, let neither the one or the other ever refuse to give a fair explication of the words they use.
6. They should not indulge ridicule, either of persons or things, in their disputations. They should abstain from all banter and jest, laughter and merriment. These are things that break in upon that philosophical gravity, sedateness and serenity of temper which ought to be observed in every search after truth. However, an argument on some subjects
be sometimes clothed with a little pleasantry, yet a jest or witticism should never be used instead of an argument, nor should it ever be suffered to pass for a real and solid proof.
But especially if the subject be sacred or divine, and have nothing in it comical or ridiculous, all ludicrous turns, and jocose or comical airs, should be entirely excluded, lest young minds become tinctured with a silly and profane sort of ridicule, and learn to jest and trifle with the awful solemnities of religion.
7. Nor should sarcasm and reproach, or insolent language, ever be used among fair disputants. Turn not off from things to speak of persons. Leave all noisy contests, all immodest clamours, brawling language, and especially all personal scandal and scurrility to the meanest part of the vulgar world. Let your manner be all candour and gentleness, patient and ready to hear, humbly zealous to inform and be informed; you should be free and pleasant in every answer and behaviour, rather like well-bred gentlemen in