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"Most undoubtedly it is, and I shall not cease to collect them, for I value them very highly. I covet knowledge most of all.”
"What sort of knowledge do you desire most?” He then enumerates one after another the principal professions—that of a physician, an architect, a geometrician, and receives negative answers in each case.
"Perhaps then you desire that kind of knowledge which makes the able statesman and the good economist, which qualifies for command and renders a man useful to himself and others."
“That indeed is what I sigh for and am in search of,” replied Euthydemus with no small emotion.
Socrates commends this resolve and by a few more questions elicits from his catechumen, the declaration that what men want is a stronger sense of justice, and that he hopes to be useful in making them understand their duties better. Assuredly," he says in reply to Socrates's request for a definition of justice, “there can be no practical difficulty in pointing out what is just and what is unjust, in actions about which we are conversant daily.”
“Suppose then,” says Socrates, “we draw a line and set down an Alpha here and an Omega there, and arrange under these two heads the things that belong to justice and injustice respectively.”
“You may do so, if you think there will be any use in such a method."
“Now” (having done this) “ Is there any such a thing as lying?” “Most certainly.” “And on which side shall we place it?". “Under Omega, the side of injustice certainly." “Do mankind ever deceive each other?" “Frequently." “And where shall we place this deceit?" “On the same side of the line.” “Selling people into slavery who were born free?" “Still the same certainly.”
“But suppose one whom you have elected to command your armies should take a city belonging to your enemies, and sell its inhabitants for slaves. Shall we say he acts unjustly?”
“By no means.
“And what if while he is carrying on the war he deceiveth the
“He will do right by so doing.”
“May he not likewise, when he ravages their country, carry off their corn and their cattle without being guilty of injustice.”
“No doubt, Socrates, and when I seemed to say otherwise I thought you confined what was spoken to our friends only.”
“So then, what we have hitherto placed under the letter Omega may be carried over and arranged under Alpha."
“But will it not be necessary to make a further distinction, Euthydemus, and say that to behave in such a manner to our enemies is just, and to our friends unjust, because to these last the utmost simplicity and candour is due?”
“You are in the right, Socrates."
“But how, if this general, on seeing the courage of his troops begin to fail, should make them believe fresh succours at hand, and by this means remove their fears; to which side should we assign this falsehood?”
“I suppose to justice.”
“Or, if a child refuseth the physic he stands in need of, and the father deceiveth him under the appearance of food, where shall we place this deceit, Euthydemus?”
“With the same, I imagine.”
“And, suppose a man in the height of despair should attempt to kill himself, and his friend should come and force away his sword, under what head are we to place this act of violence?"
“I should think under the same head as the former. It is clearly not wrong."
“But take care, Euthydemus, since it seemeth from your answers that we ought not always to treat our friends with candour and perfect truthfulness, which yet we had before agreed should be
“It is plain we ought not, and I retract my former opinion, if it is allowable for me to do so.”
“Most assuredly, for it is far better to change our opinion than 10 persist in a wrong one. However, that we may pass over nothing without duly examining it, which of the two, Euthydemus, appears to you the more unjust, he who deceives his friend willingly, or he who does it without having any such design?”
“By Jove, Socrates, I am not certain what I should answer or
what I should think, for you have given such a turn to all I have said as to make it appear very different from what I thought it. I fancied I was no stranger to philosophy, but now it seems to me more difficult, and my own knowledge of it less than I supposed."
Now, by some such method, however humbling, it Socratic was Socrates's desire to bring the mind of a disciple into question
ing a fit state for further investigation. To shew him that there were latent difficulties in many things which seemed very simple; that plausible and well-sounding general propositions admitted of exceptions and qualifications which were often unsuspected; and that till these things had been recognized and carefully examined, it was premature to dogmatise about them-all this appeared to him a needful part of intellectual discipline. And if, on reading what are called the "dialogues of search," you observe that they end in nothing but mere negative conclusions, and bring you to no definite statement of truth; you may bear in mind that though this result may seem disappointing, and though it undoubtedly disappointed his disciples very often, it would not have disappointed him. For if he could clear away illusions. and make people see the difference between what they knew and what they did not know, and so put them into a better condition for arriving at conclusions for themselves, he thought he had done them a greater intellectual service than if he had provided them with any ready-made conclusions, however valuable. And, in like manner, I think we shall do wisely as Applica
tion of teachers if we seek before giving a new lesson to as
method certain by means of questions what previous knowledge to school exists, and what misconceptions or vagueness are in the use. minds of our pupils on the subject we want to explain. Doing this serves two purposes. It reveals to you the measure of the deficiency you have to supply, and it
awakens the sympathy and interest of the pupil by shewing him what he has to learn.
Supposing this preliminary work done, you have next to consider how questions may be most effectually used in the course of lessons and at the end of them.
The first requisite of a question is that it should be in perfectly clear, simple language, the meaning of which admits of no mistake. It should be expressed in as few words as possible. I heard a man questioning a class the other day in physical geography. He said :
“Where do you expect to find lakes? For instance, you know the difference between a chain of mountains and a group, don't you. Well, you know the water comes down the side of a mountain, and must go somewhere. What is a lake?”
Here in this question there are four sentences, and two totally different questions. The questioner knew what he wanted, but while he was speaking it dawned upon him that he might make it clearer, so he interposed a little explanation, and ended by putting a different question from that which he gave at first. It was amusing to see the puzzled and bewildered look of the children as they listened to this, and to many other of the like clumsy and inartistic questions, fenced round by qualifications and afterthoughts, until it was very hard for them to know what was really expected of them. In this particular case he had got hold of a very true notion. He should first have shewn a drawing or a little model of a chain of mountains, and then have asked them to tell him what became of the streams that rolled down into a plain. Soon he would have elicited a good general notion of the course of rivers as determined by a watershed. Then he should have asked what would happen if the mountains were not in a chain but in a group, so that when the Characteristics of a good question.
water rolled down one side it could not get away but was stopped by another mountain. “What becomes of the water?" It must stop in the valleys. “And when water remains in a valley, what do we call it ?” A lake. “Now tell me what a lake is.” “How do you expect to find the mountains arranged in the lake country. In a group or in a range? Why?" Each question, you see, ought to be one, and indivisible. There should be no ambiguity about the sort of answer it requires.
Let me warn you also to avoid the habit of sur- 2. Terserounding your questions with little expletives and cir- ness. cumlocutions. “Can anyone tell me?” “Which of you knows?" “Will those hold up their hands who can answer ?” “Well now, I want some child to answer this.” Strip your question, as a rule, of all such verbiage and periphrase, and say plainly what you want. “Which are the verbs in that sentence?” “Why is that noun in the ablative case ?” “How many feet are in a mile?” Practise yourself in economizing your words and reducing all such questions to their simplest forms.
Generally too, all wide, vague enquiries should be 3. Point. avoided. “What do you think of that?” “ What sort of person was Henry VIII.?" "Describe what happened in the civil war." “What are the uses of iron?” I heard a teacher giving a lesson on the atmosphere. He described a man drowning, and brought out that he died for want of air. “Now," said he in triumph, “what is the thought that occurs to our minds ?” Well, I am sure I could not have answered that question ; a good many thoughts occurred to my mind, but as I had no clear knowledge of the particular thought which was in his, and which he expected from his class, I should certainly have been silent,--and so were his pupils. Questions of this sort, which admit of a good many answers, or of a long