How to Learn; With an Invective Against Pseudo-Intellectuals

Hugo of St. Victor, Didascalion 3.13:

“The beginning of study is humility. Though there are many examples of this, three principles in particular are pertinent to the reader:
First, that he consider no knowledge or writing as worthless;
Second, that he should never blush to learn from anyone;
Third, that once he has gained knowledge, he should not look down upon others.

This has escaped many people, who wished to appear wise before their time. They break out from this point into a certain swollen elation, and begin to pretend to be what they are not while feeling shame about what they are, and withdraw even farther from wisdom in as much as they desire not to be wise, but merely to seem so. I know many people of this sort who, though they do not even know basic principles, feel that it is below their dignity to engage in anything but the highest and most important things, and think that they become important in this way alone, if they read the writings or hear the words of the greatest and wisest writers. They say, ‘We have seen them, we have read from them. They often used to converse with us. Those important, famous writers – they know us!’ I would rather that no one knew me, and that I knew everything! You glory in the fact that you have seen Plato, but have not understood him. I think that it is unworthy of you to listen to me then. I am not Plato, and I have not deserved to see him. This is enough for you: you have drunk from the fountain of philosophy, but would that you were still thirsty! The king has drunk from an earthen cup after using a golden chalice. You have listened to Plato, perhaps you may listen to Chrysippus. As the proverb says, ‘What you don’t know, perhaps Ofellus* knows.’”

*[Perhaps the Stoic philosopher mentioned in Horace’s Satires? I am otherwise unfamiliar with the proverb.]

Principium autem disciplinae humilitas est, cuius cum multa sint documenta, haec tria praecipue ad lectorem pertinent: primum, ut nullam scientiam, nullam scripturam vilem teneat, secundum, ut a nemine discere erubescat, tertium, ut cum scientiam adeptus fuerit, ceteros non contemnat. multos hoc decipit, quod ante tempus, sapientes videri volunt. hinc namque in quendam elationis tumorem prorumpunt, [773D] ut iam et simulare incipiant quod non sunt et quod sunt erubescere, eoque longius a sapientia recedunt quo non esse sapientes, sed putari putant. eiusmodi multos novi, qui, cum primis adhuc elementis indigeant, non nisi summis interesse dignantur, et ex hoc solummodo se magnos fieri putant, si magnorum et sapientium vel scripta legerint vel audierint verba. ‘nos,’ inquiunt, ‘vidimus illos. nos ab illis legimus. saepe nobis loqui illi solebant. illi summi, illi famosi, cognoverunt nos.’ sed utinam me nemo agnoscat et ego cuncta noverim! Platonem vidisse, non intellexisse gioriamini. puto indignum vobis est deinceps ut me audiatis. non ego sum Plato, nec Platonem videre merui. sufficit vobis: ipsum philosophiae fontem potastis, sed utinam adhuc sitiretis! rex post aurea pocula de vase bibit testeo. quid erubescitis? [774A] Platonem audistis, audiatis et Chrysippum. in proverbio dicitur: Quod tu non nosti, fortassis novit Ofellus.

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