Futility vs. Utility in Study

John Dewey, Democracy and Education:

In the first place, as long as any topic makes an immediate appeal, it is not necessary to ask what it is good for. This is a question which can be asked only about instrumental values. Some goods are not good for anything; they are just goods. Any other notion leads to an absurdity. For we cannot stop asking the question about an instrumental good, one whose value lies in its being good for something, unless there is at some point something intrinsically good, good for itself. To a hungry, healthy child, food is a good of the situation; we do not have to bring him to consciousness of the ends subserved by food in order to supply a motive to eat. The food in connection with his appetite is a motive. The same thing holds of mentally eager pupils with respect to many topics. Neither they nor the teacher could possibly foretell with any exactness the purposes learning is to accomplish in the future; nor as long as the eagerness continues is it advisable to try to specify particular goods which are to come of it. The proof of a good is found in the fact that the pupil responds; his response is use. His response to the material shows that the subject functions in his life.

It is unsound to urge that, say, Latin has a value per se in the abstract, just as a study, as a sufficient justification for teaching it. But it is equally absurd to argue that unless teacher or pupil can point out some definite assignable future use to which it is to be put, it lacks justifying value. When pupils are genuinely concerned in learning Latin, that is of itself proof that it possesses value. The most which one is entitled to ask in such cases is whether in view of the shortness of time, there are not other things of intrinsic value which in addition have greater instrumental value.

How Scholarship Got Her (Narrow Verbal) Groove

R.C. Jebb, Bentley (Chp. XIII):

Let it be noted that Bentley’s view is relative to his own day. It is because such men as Casaubon have gone before that he can thus define his own purpose. Learning, inspired by insight, is now to be directed to the attainment of textual accuracy. Bentley’s distinction is not so much the degree of his insight, — rare as this was, — but rather his method of applying it. It might be said: — Bentley turned the course of scholarship aside from grander objects, philosophical, historical, literary, — and forced it into a narrow verbal groove. If Bentley’s criticism had been verbal only — which it was not — such an objection would still be unjust. We in these days are accustomed to Greek and Latin texts which, though they may be still more or less unsound, are seldom so unsound as largely to obscure the author’s meaning, or seriously to mar our enjoyment of his work as a work of art. But for this state of things we have mainly to thank the impulse given by Bentley.


William Penn Laughs at Latin

Beatrice Pastorius Turner, William Penn and Pastorius:

“When Pastorius arrived at Philadelphia the ‘renowned city consisted of three or four small houses in all.’ None the less Philadelphia had a fair-sized population. For while many of the first arrivals had removed to land assigned them in outlying districts, yet many were domiciled in caves by the Delaware river side. The first residence in Philadelphia occupied by Francis Daniel Pastorius was purchased ‘from Thomas Miller for 5£., (or twenty dollars silver,) in the midst of Front Street at Philadelphia, whenas,’ Pastorius wrote, ‘the Servants I had with me, could have made a far better one in two days, had they but known how to handle the spade.’ ‘None the less,’ Pastorius continues, ‘therein they dwelt more con tentedly than many nowadays in their painted and wainscoted palaces.’

This was, of course, a very charmingly philosophic reflection, but I have often thought that it was as well for his content with the ‘Catacombs of Philadelphia’, for so he termed these caves, that no feminine relatives had accompanied him to the wilds to disillusion him with their estimate of these catacombs. It was not long after his arrival however, that Pastorius erected upon one of the city lots which Penn had finally assigned him from the portion of his (Penn’s) youngest son, ‘a little house 30 feet long, 15 feet wide.’ This house was built by the five men servants Pastorius brought with him to America. ‘Because of the scarcity of glass,’ Pastorius wrote, ‘the windows were of oiled paper. Over the house door I had written: Parva Domus, sed amica Bonis, procul este profani.’ (A little house, but a friend to the good, keep at a distance ye profane.) ‘Whereat our Governor,’ Pastorius wrote, ‘when he visited me, burst into laughter, and encouraged me to keep on building.’ This is, I understand, the only recorded instance of the laughter of William Penn. The only recorded instance perhaps, yet assuredly far from an unique instance, for Pastorius and Penn were much together, and the whimsical, the irrepressible wit of Pastorius lightened and brightened his dullest.”

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From Proca to Hoeca

Aurelius Victor, de Viris Illustribus – I

Proca, the king of the Albans, had two sons, Amulius and Numitor. He left his kingdom to them to be held in annual succession (such that they would rule in alternate years). But Amulius did not hand over the throne to his brother and, in order to deprive him of a successor, he made Numitor’s daughter Rhea Silvia a priestess of Vesta, so that she would be maintained in a state of perpetual virginity. After she was violated by Mars, she gave birth to Remus and Romulus.

Amulius threw her into chains, and dismissed the infants to the Tiber, where the water left them on the dry bank. A she-wolf came to their cry and nursed them herself. Soon, the pastor Faustulus took them and gave them to his wife Acca Larentia to be raised. These youths, once Amulius had been killed, restored the throne to their grandfather Numitor. They themselves founded a city for the united pastors, which Romulus, victorious in the matter of augury because he had seen twelve vultures when Remus saw six, called Rome. And in order to fortify it with laws before he fortified it with walls, he decreed that no one jump over the wall. Remus mockingly jumped over the wall and was killed by the centurion Celer with a hoe.

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Proca, rex Albanorum, Amulium et Numitorem filios habuit, quibus regnum annuis vicibus habendum reliquit [ut alternia imperarent]. Sed Amulius fratri imperium non dedit et ut eum subole privaret, filiam eius, Rheam Silviam, Vestae sacerdotem praefecit, ut virginitate perpetua teneretur, quae a Marte compressa Remum et Romulum edidit. Amulius ipsam in vincula compegit, parvulos in Tiberim abiecit, quos aqua in sicco reliquit. Ad vagitum lupa accurrit eosque uberibus suis aluit. Mox Faustulus pastor collectos Accae Laurentiae coniugi educandos dedit. Qui postea Amulio interfecto Numitori avo regnum restituerunt; ipsi pastoribus adunatis civitatem condiderunt, quam Romulus augurio victor, quod ipse XII, Remus VI vultures viderat, Romam vocavit; et ut eam prius legibus muniret quam moenibus, edixit, ne quis vallum transiliret; quod Remus irridens transilivit et a Celere centurione rastro fertur occisus.

Don’t Piss Before the Sun

Erasmus, Adagia 1.20:

Πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον τετραμμένον μὴ ὀμιχεῖν, that is, Don’t turn and piss against the sun. I think that this recommends modesty. Yet Pliny offers a superstitious account of this thing in book 28, chapter 6 of his history, and I will put down his words below:

Tokens of health are conveyed by one’s urine. If it is clear in the morning, then reddish, the first means that it is seething, and the second that it has finished seething. The indications of red urine are bad, but the worst are those of black urine; the signs of bubbling and thick urine are bad, in which, if the subsident material be white, it means that pain is impending around the joints or the organs. Similarly, if it is green, it indicates a disease of the organs, pale indicates a disease of the bile, and red indicates a disease of the blood. It is also a bad sign if what appear to be bran chunks or clouds are found in the urine. Pale white urine is also bad. But thick urine with a heavy odor and (in children) light and diluted urine can be deadly. For that reason, magi forbid one to get naked in front of the sun and moon, or to sprinkle anyone’s shadow with urine. Hesiod advises that it should be done next to some object standing in the way, lest nudity offend some god.

The place to which Pliny here refers and from which the symbol of Pythagoras appears to have been taken is in the poem named Works and Days:

Μηδ᾽ ἄντ᾽ ἠελίοιο τετραμμένος ὀρθὸς ὀμιχεῖν,
Αὐτὰρ ἐπεί κε δύῃ μεμνημένος ἔς τ᾽ ἀνιόντα.
Μήτ᾽ ἐν ὁδῷ μήτ᾽ ἐκτὸς ὁδοῦ προβάδην οὐρησῃς
Μηδ᾽ ἀπογυμνωθείς, μακάρων τοι νύκτες ἔασσιν.
Ἑζόμενος δ᾽ ὅ γε θεῖος ἀνήρ, πεπνυμένα εἰδώς,
Ἢ ὅ γε πρὸς τοῖχον πελάσας ἐυερκέος αὐλῆς,

That is,

“Don’t stand upright and piss facing the sun, but when it goes down, remember this until it rises. Don’t piss on the road, nor off the road as you walk, and don’t get naked, since indeed nights are sacred to the blessed gods. But the man who is smart and pious will either piss recumbent, or only after moving his body near the walls of the house.”


Πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον τετραμμένον μὴ ὀμιχεῖν, id est Aduersus solem ne meiito. Opinor
commendari verecundiam. Tametsi Plinius superstitiosam huius rei causam
reddit lib. xxviii., cap. vi., verba ipsius subscribam: Auguria valetudinis ex vrina
traduntur. Si mane candida, dein rufa sit, illo modo concoquere, hoc concoxisse
significatur. Mala signa rubrae, pessima nigrae, mala bullantis et crassae, in qua quod
subsidit, si album est, significat circa articulos aut viscera dolorem imminere, eadem
viridis morbum viscerum, pallida bilis, rubens sanguinis. Mala et in qua veluti furfures
atque nubeculae apparent. Diluta quoque alba vitiosa est. Mortifera vero crassa graui
odore et in pueris tenuis ac diluta. Magi vetant eius rei causa contra solem lunamque
nudari aut vmbram cuiusquam ab ipsa aspergi. Hesiodus iuxta obstantia reddi suadet,
ne deum nudatio aliquem• offendat. Locus hic quem Plinius citat et ex quo
symbolum Pythagorae sumptum apparet, est in opere, cui titulus Ἔργα καὶ

Μηδ᾽ ἄντ᾽ ἠελίοιο τετραμμένος ὀρθὸς ὀμιχεῖν,105
Αὐτὰρ ἐπεί κε δύῃ μεμνημένος ἔς τ᾽ ἀνιόντα.
Μήτ᾽ ἐν ὁδῷ μήτ᾽ ἐκτὸς ὁδοῦ προβάδην οὐρησῃς |
Μηδ᾽ ἀπογυμνωθείς, μακάρων τοι νύκτες ἔασσιν.
Ἑζόμενος δ᾽ ὅ γε θεῖος ἀνήρ, πεπνυμένα εἰδώς,106
Ἢ ὅ γε πρὸς τοῖχον πελάσας ἐυερκέος αὐλῆς, id est
Aduersus solem rectus ne meiito, verum vt
Occiderit, donec redeat, facere ista memento.
Sed neque progrediens locium desperseris vnquam,
Inue viis extraue vias, neque membra renudes
Micturus, siquidem diuis nox sacra beatis.
At qui• vir fuerit prudensque piusque, recumbens
Siue domus muris admotus corpore, meiet.


Polyphemus’ Daughter

John Malalas, Chronographia 24:

Sicily, being three-sided, was ruled over by three brothers, of whom one was called Cyclops or Polyphemus. After Odysseus had suffered under him and lost many of his companions, he tricked him with gifts and wine, and then took away Polyphemus’ only daughter and fled, as Sisyphus of Cos tells the story. Since the ruled together, the three of them were called Cyclopes, and the story about them goes that they had three eyes, meaning that the three shared these three eyes among them. But Polyphemus, whom Odysseus blinded with fire, lost one of them because he lost his daughter who was burned with love.

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῾Η Σικελία τρίγωνος οὖσα ὑπὸ τριῶν ἀδελφῶν ἐβασιλεύετο, ὧν ὁ μὲν ἐλέγετο Κύκλωψ, ὁ δὲ Πολύφημος. Καταπονηθεὶς δὲ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ, καὶ πολλοὺς τῶν οἰκείων ἀποβαλὼν, δώροις δελεάσας αὐτὸν καὶ οἴνῳ, τὴν αὐτοῦ μονογενῆ θυγατέρα ἁρπάσας ἔφυγεν, ὡς Σίσυφος ὁ Κῶος ἱστορεῖ. ῞Οτι γοῦν ἀλλήλοις συνήρχοντο οἱ τρεῖς ὠνομάζοντο Κύκλωπες, καὶ ἐμυθεύσαντο ὅτι τρεῖς ὀφθαλμοὺς εἶχον, σημαίνοντες τοὺς τρεῖς ἀδελφοὺς ἀλλήλοις συγκειμένους· ὁ δὲ Πολύφημος ἕνα, ὃν διὰ πυρὸς διετύφλωσεν ᾿Οδυσσεὺς, ὅτι τὴν αὐτοῦ θυγατέρα ἐκκαυθεῖσαν ἔρωτι ἀφείλετο.

Bentley on Ancient Shoulders

R.C. Jebb, Bentley (Chp. XIII):

At his birth in 1662 rather more than two centuries had elapsed since the beginning of the movement which was to restore ancient literature to the modern world. During the earlier of these two centuries — from about 1450 to  1550 — the chief seat of the revival had been Italy, which thus retained by a new title that intellectual primacy of Europe which had seemed on the point of passing from the lands of the south. Latin literature engrossed the early Italian scholars, who regarded themselves as literary heirs of Rome, restored to their rights after ages of dispossession. The beauty of classical form came as a surprise and a delight to these children of the middle age; they admired and enjoyed; they could not criticise. The more rhetorical parts of silver Latinity pleased them best; a preference natural to the Italian genius. And meanwhile Greek studies had remained in the background. The purest and most perfect examples of form, — those which Greek literature affords, — were not present to the mind of the earlier Renaissance. Transalpine students resorted to Italy as for initiation into sacred mysteries. The highest eminence in classical scholarship was regarded as a birthright of Italians. The small circle of immortals which included Poggio and Politian admitted only one foreigner, Erasmus, whose cosmopolitan tone gave no wound to the national susceptibility of Italians, and whose conception, though larger than theirs, rested on the same basis. That basis was the imitatio veterum, the literary reproduction of ancient form. Erasmus was nearer than any of his predecessors or contemporaries to the idea of a critical philology. His natural gifts for it are sufficiently manifest. But his want of critical method, and of the sense which requires it, appears in his edition of the Greek Testament.

In the second half of the sixteenth century a new period is opened by a Frenchman of Italian origin, Joseph Scaliger. Hitherto scholarship had been busy with the form of classical literature. The new effort is to comprehend the matter. By his Latin compositions and translations Scaliger is connected with the Italian age of Latin stylists. But his most serious and characteristic work was the endeavour to frame a critical chronology of the ancient world. He was peculiarly well-fitted to effect a transition from the old to the new aim, because his industry could not be reproached with dulness. ‘People had thought that aesthetic pleasure could be purchased only at the cost of criticism,’ says Bernays; ‘now they saw the critical workshop itself lit up with the glow of artistic inspiration.’ A different praise belongs to Scaliger’s great and indefatigable contemporary, Isaac Casaubon. His groans over Athenaeus, which sometimes reverberate in the brilliant and faithful pages of Mr Pattison, appear to warrant Casaubon’s comparison of his toils to the labours of penal servitude (‘catenaii in ergastulo labores‘). Bernhardy defines the merit of Casaubon as that of having been the first to popularise a connected knowledge of ancient life and manners. Two things had now been done. The charm of Latin style had been appreciated. The contents of ancient literature, both Latin and Greek, had been surveyed, and partly registered.

Bentley approached ancient literature on the side which had been chiefly cultivated in the age nearest to his own. When we first find him at work, under Stillingfleet’s roof, or in the libraries of Oxford, he is evidently less occupied with the form than with the matter. He reads extensively, making indexes for his own use; he seeks to possess the contents of the classical authors, whether already printed or accessible only in manuscript. An incident told by Cumberland is suggestive. Bentley was talking one day with his favourite daughter, when she hinted a regret that he had devoted so much of his time to criticism, rather than to original composition. He acknowledged the justice of the remark. ‘But the wit and genius of those old heathens,’ he said, ‘beguiled me: and as I despaired of raising myself up to their standard upon fair ground, I thought the only chance I had of looking over their heads was to get upon their shoulders. ‘ These are the words of a man who had turned to ancient literature in the spirit of Scaliger rather than in that of the Italian Latinists.