Forget Understanding, Memorize This!

Lionel A. Tollemache, Recollections of Pattison:

“Pattison was coaching an undergraduate in the Ethics. The pupil, perplexed by Aristotle’s reasoning, embarrassed his teacher by his importunate desire to understand it. At last Pattison said tartly: ‘Never mind understanding it, only get it up.’ The pupil was naturally hurt by this unpleasant rebuke; which, however, probably meant that the time was short, and that, if the pupil insisted on discussing first principles, instead of merely learning the answers which would satisfy the examiners, he might be disappointed in his degree, as Pattison himself had been. Nevertheless, Pattison’s impatience may have been partly due to want of sympathy with , the subject. When I knew him, and when he wrote his Memoirs, he was an Aristotelian. But he was originally a Platonist, and it was only by slow degrees that the influence of Oxford wrought the change in him. Many years ago, when speaking of the late Dr. Jeune as a successful man of the world whom he disliked, he said, ‘I divide men into those who love Plato and those who do not; Jeune, I am certain, does not.'”

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