Beginning with the End in Mind for 2500 Years

Isocrates, To the Children of Jason 7

“These are the reasons why I first said that the first principle to offer is one of the most frequently repeated. For I am in the habit of telling those who attend our school that the first thing they must consider is what must be accomplished by the whole speech and its parts. When we have figured this out and we judge it completely, then I say that we must think about the forms that will advance and complete the goal we have established.

Now, I offer this advice about argumentation but this also applies as a rule into all other matters and your affairs too. For nothing is able to be done in an intentional fashion if you do not first take an accounting and take council with great forethought of how you need to arrange the rest of your lives, what life work you should choose, what kind of reputation you should pursue, and what achievements you will delight in—whether they are those which come willingly from your fellow citizens or those they give up unwillingly.”

τούτου δ᾿ ἕνεκα ταῦτα προεῖπον, ὅτι τὸ πρῶτον ἐπιφερόμενον ἓν τῶν τεθρυλημένων ἐστίν. εἴθισμαι γὰρ λέγειν πρὸς τοὺς περὶ τὴν φιλοσοφίαν τὴν ἡμετέραν διατρίβοντας ὅτι τοῦτο πρῶτον δεῖ σκέψασθαι, τί τῷ λόγῳ καὶ τοῖς τοῦ λόγου μέρεσι διαπρακτέον ἐστίν· ἐπειδὰν δὲ τοῦθ᾿ εὕρωμεν καὶ διακριβωσώμεθα, ζητητέον εἶναί φημι τὰς ἰδέας δι᾿ ὧν ταῦτ᾿ ἐξεργασθήσεται καὶ λήψεται τέλος ὅπερ ὑπεθέμεθα. καὶ ταῦτα φράζω μὲν ἐπὶ τῶν λόγων, ἔστι δὲ τοῦτο στοιχεῖον καὶ κατὰ τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων καὶ κατὰ τῶν ὑμετέρων πραγμάτων. οὐδὲν γὰρ οἷόν τ᾿ ἐστὶ πραχθῆναι νοῦν ἐχόντως, ἂν μὴ τοῦτο πρῶτον μετὰ πολλῆς προνοίας λογίσησθε καὶ βουλεύσησθε, πῶς χρὴ τὸν ἐπίλοιπον χρόνον ὑμῶν αὐτῶν προστῆναι καὶ τίνα βίον προελέσθαι καὶ ποίας δόξης ὀριγνηθῆναι καὶ ποτέρας τῶν τιμῶν ἀγαπῆσαι, τὰς παρ᾿ ἑκόντων γιγνομένας ἢ τὰς παρ᾿ ἀκόντων τῶν πολιτῶν·

Libanius, Autobiography F90 17

“The education of the young had been taken up by people little different from the young themselves.”

τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν νέων ὑπ᾿ ἀνδρῶν οὐ πολύ τι νέων διαφερόντων ἡρπασμένης

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Students without Teaching: Against Illiterate Literacy

Plato, Phaedrus 274e-275a (go here for the full dialogue)

Socrates is telling a story of the invention of writing in Egypt

“When it came to the written letters, Theuth said, ‘This training, King, will make Egyptians wiser and will give them stronger memories: for it is a drug for memory and wisdom!’ But the king replied, “Most inventive Theuth, one man is able to create technology, but another judges how much harm and benefit it brings to those who use it. Just so now you, who are father of letters, declare the opposite of what they are capable because of your enthusiasm.

This craft will engender forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn it from the disuse of the memory since they will trust external writing struck by others, no longer recalling their own thoughts within them. You have discovered a drug for reminding, not one for memory; you will offer students the reputation of wisdom but not the true thing. For many who become students without instruction will seem to know a lot when they are mostly ignorant and difficult to be around, since they have become wise for appearance instead of wise in truth.’

Ph. Socrates, you can easily make up any story about Egypt that you want to…”

ἐπειδὴ δ’ ἐπὶ τοῖς γράμμασιν ἦν, Τοῦτο δέ, ὦ βασιλεῦ, τὸ μάθημα, ἔφη ὁ Θεύθ,

σοφωτέρους Αἰγυπτίους καὶ μνημονικωτέρους παρέξει, μνήμης τε γὰρ καὶ σοφίας φάρμακον εὑρέθη. ῾Ο δ’ εἶπεν, ῏Ω τεχνικώτατε Θεύθ, ἄλλος μὲν δυνατὸς τεκεῖν τὰ τέχνης, ἄλλος δὲ κρῖναι, τίν’ ἔχει μοῖραν βλάβης τε καὶ ὠφελείας τοῖς μέλλουσι χρῆσθαι. Καὶ νῦν σὺ πατὴρ ὢν γραμμάτων δι’ εὔνοιαν τοὐναντίον εἶπες ἢ δύναται. Τοῦτο γὰρ τῶν μαθόντων λήθην μὲν ἐν ψυχαῖς παρέξει, μνήμης ἀμελετησίᾳ, ἅτε διὰ πίστιν γραφῆς ἔξωθεν ὑπ’ ἀλλοτρίων τύπων, οὐκ ἔνδοθεν αὐτοὺς ὑφ’ αὑτῶν ἀναμιμνησκομένους. Οὐκοῦν οὐ μνήμης ἀλλ’ ὑπομνήσεως φάρμακον εὗρες, σοφίας δὲ τοῖς μαθηταῖς δόξαν οὐκ ἀλήθειαν πορίζεις. πολυήκοοι γάρ σοι γενόμενοι ἄνευ διδαχῆς πολυγνώμονες εἶναι δόξουσιν, ἀγνώμονες ὡς ἐπὶ πλῆθος ὄντες καὶ χαλεποὶ ξυνεῖναι, δοξόσοφοι γεγονότες ἀντὶ σοφῶν.

ὦ Σώκρατες, ῥᾳδίως σὺ Αἰγυπτίους καὶ ὁποδαποὺς ἂν ἐθέλῃς λόγους ποιεῖς.

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The Annoying Liberal Arts, Or: Seneca Goes Full-on Bauerlain

Seneca, Moral Epistle 88

“But, truly, the knowledge of many disciplines is pleasurable”. Ok, then, let’s keep only what is necessary from these arts. Do you think that the person who considers superficial matters equal to useful ones and for this reason makes his home a museum of expensive products is reprehensible but not the man who is obsessed with the superfluous aspects of academia? To want to know more than is enough is a kind of excessive delusion.

Why? Well, this extreme pursuit of the liberal arts makes people annoying, wordy, bad-mannered, and overly self-satisfied, even though they have not learned the basics because they pursue the useless.

The scholar Didymus wrote four thousand books. I would pity him if had only read that many useless works. In these books he searched for Homer’s homeland, the real mother of Aeneas, whether Anacreon is more licentious or just drunk, whether Sappho was promiscuous and other various questions which, if you learned them, would have been necessarily forgotten. Go on, don’t say life is long. No, when you turn to your own people too, I will show you many things which should be pruned back with an ax.”

“At enim delectat artium notitia multarum.” Tantum itaque ex illis retineamus, quantum necessarium est. An tu existimas reprendendum, qui supervacua usibus conparat et pretiosarum rerum pompam in domo explicat, non putas eum, qui occupatus est in supervacua litterarum supellectile? Plus scire velle quam sit satis, intemperantiae genus est.

Quid? Quod ista liberalium artium consectatio molestos, verbosos, intempestivos, sibi placentes facit et ideo non discentes necessaria, quia supervacua didicerunt. Quattuor milia librorum Didymus grammaticus scripsit. Misererer, si tam multa supervacua legisset. In his libris de patria Homeri quaeritur, in his de Aeneae matre vera, in his libidinosior Anacreon an ebriosior vixerit, in his an Sappho publica fuerit, et alia, quae erant dediscenda, si scires. I nunc et longam esse vitam nega. Sed ad nostros quoque cum perveneris, ostendam multa securibus recidenda.

These are themes close to the old man’s heart, elsewhere too:

Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae 13

“This sickness used to just afflict the Greeks, to discover the number of oars Odysseus possessed, whether the Iliad was written before the Odyssey, whether the poems belong to the same author, and other matters like this which, if you keep them to yourself, cannot please your private mind; but if you publish them, you seem less learned than annoying.”

Graecorum iste morbus fuit quaerere, quem numerum Ulixes remigum habuisset, prior scripta esset Ilias an Odyssia, praeterea an eiusdem essent auctoris, alia deinceps huius notae, quae sive contineas, nihil tacitam conscientiam iuvant sive proferas, non doctior videaris sed molestior.

Seneca, Moral Epistle 108

“But some error comes thanks to our teachers who instruct us how to argue but not how to live; some error too comes from students, who bring themselves to teachers not for the nourishing of the soul, but the cultivation of our wit. Thus what was philosophy has been turned into philology.”

Sed aliquid praecipientium vitio peccatur, qui nos docent disputare, non vivere, aliquid discentium, qui propositum adferunt ad praeceptores suos non animum excolendi, sed ingenium. Itaque quae philosophia fuit, facta philologia est.

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 ca. 1350 | The Morgan Library & Museum

“Give the Child a Book and Order Them to Read”

Polybius, Histories 10.47 7-12

“There are many other examples which provide proof for this, but the clearest one of all is that from reading. In this case, if someone sets a person who is illiterate and unaccustomed to reading but not a fool and then place next to him a child who can read, give the child a book and order them to read what is written, it is clear that the man would not be able to believe that while reading one must first understand the image of each letter, then the value of its sound, and then the possible combinations with other letters, all things that require a great deal of time.

When he sees the child reading without pausing seven or five lines, he will not easily be able to believe that the child has not read the book before. He will straight out deny it if the reader observes the rhythm, the pauses, the rough breathings and the smooth breathings too. We should not bar for ourselves, then, anything which is useful because it appears to be difficult at first. No, we must use the force of habit, the means by which humans achieve all good things and even more so when it concerns the matters upon which our very safety depends.”

τοῦ δὲ τοιούτου λόγου παραδείγματα μὲν πολλὰ καὶ ἕτερα πρὸς πίστιν, ἐναργέστατον δὲ τὸ γινόμενον ἐπὶ τῆς ἀναγνώσεως. ἐπὶ γὰρ ἐκείνης, εἴ τις παραστησάμενος ἄνθρωπον ἄπειρον μὲν καὶ ἀσυνήθη γραμματικῆς, τἄλλα δ᾿ ἀγχίνουν, κἄπειτα παιδάριον ἕξιν ἔχον παραστήσας καὶ δοὺς βυβλίον κελεύοι λέγειν τὰ γεγραμμένα, δῆλον ὡς οὐκ ἂν δύναιτο πιστεῦσαι διότι <δεῖ> πρῶτον ἐπὶ τὰς ὄψεις τὰς ἑνὸς ἑκάστου τῶν γραμμάτων ἐπιστῆσαι τὸν ἀναγινώσκοντα, δεύτερον ἐπὶ τὰς δυνάμεις, τρίτον ἐπὶ τὰς πρὸς ἄλληλα συμπλοκάς, ὧν ἕκαστον ποσοῦ χρόνου τινὸς δεῖται.διόπερ ὅταν ἀνεπιστάτως θεωρῇ τὸ παιδάριον ὑπὸ τὴν ἀναπνοὴν ἑπτὰ καὶ πέντε στίχους συνεῖρον, οὐκ ἂν εὐχερῶς δύναιτο πιστεῦσαι διότι πρότερον οὗτος οὐκ ἀνέγνωκε τὸ βυβλίον· εἰ δὲ καὶ τὴν ὑπόκρισιν καὶ τὰς διαιρέσεις, ἔτι δὲ δασύτητας καὶ ψιλότητας δύναιτο συσσῴζειν, οὐδὲ τελέως. διόπερ οὐκ ἀποστατέον οὐδενὸς τῶν χρησίμων διὰ τὰς προφαινομένας δυσχερείας, προσακτέον δὲ τὴν ἕξιν, ᾗ πάντα τὰ καλὰ γίνεται θηρατὰ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, ἄλλως τε καὶ περὶ τῶν τοιούτων, ἐν οἷς πολλάκις κεῖται τὸ συνέχον τῆς σωτηρίας.

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Freed By Literature, Teaching Children for Free

Suetonius, Lives of Illustrious Men: On Grammarians 13

“Staberius Eros, who was bought with his own money at a public auction and was then freed because of his dedication to literature, taught Brutus and Cassius, among others.

There are those who report that he was so noble that during the Sullan period he accepted the children of proscribed men into his school free and without any additional payment.”

XIII. Staberius Eros, suomet aere emptus de catasta et propter litterarum studium manumissus, docuit inter ceteros Brutum et Cassium. Sunt qui tradant tanta eum honestate praeditum, ut temporibus Sullanis proscriptorum liberos gratis et sine mercede ulla in disciplinam receperit.

 

  1.  He taught the republican assassins.
  2. He taught children of political assassinations for free.
  3. Staberius Eros sounds like a good man.
A Roman teacher home-schooling, about 200 AD
Image found here

What Does Philosophy Teach? the Difference Between Knowing Things and How to Think

A warning for schools that might not think philosophy is important

Heraclitus, fr. 40

“Knowing much doesn’t teach you how to think.”

πολυμαθίη νόον ἔχειν οὐ διδάσκει

Dio Chrysostom, Orat. 70.10

“Knowing these things does not make a person’s soul better or preserve it from mistakes. But someone who pursues philosophy and has a share of its learning could never rebel against the best things, nor, because he neglected them, would he prefer something shameful or common instead, or choose to be lazy, or to eat constantly and be drunk.

For to fail to wonder at this things and to cleanse your soul of desire for them is the opposite—instead, philosophy is learning how to hate them and dismiss them. Nevertheless, there’s nothing to stop someone from claiming to be a philosopher and to be an impostor and deceive himself and others”

ὸ γὰρ ταῦτα ἐπίστασθαι οὐδὲν ποιεῖ βελτίω τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ψυχὴν οὐδὲ ἀποτρέπει τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων· φιλοσοφίᾳ δὲ προσέχων τις καὶ μετασχὼν τούτου τοῦ μαθήματος οὐκ ἄν ποτε ἀποσταίη τῶν βελτίστων, οὐδὲ τούτων ἀμελήσας αἰσχρόν τι καὶ φαῦλον προέλοιτ᾿ ἂν πράττειν οὐδὲ ἀργεῖν καὶ ὀψοφαγεῖν καὶ μεθύσκεσθαι. τὸ γὰρ ταῦτα μὴ θαυμάζειν καὶ τὴν τούτων ἐπιθυμίαν ἐξαιρεῖν τῆς ψυχῆς καὶ τοὐναντίον εἰς μῖσος αὐτῶν καὶ κατάγνωσιν προάγειν φιλοσοφία ἐστίν. τὸ δέ γε φῆσαι φιλοσοφεῖν καὶ ἀλαζονεύεσθαι καὶ αὑτὸν ἐξαπατῆσαι καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους οὐδὲν ἴσως κωλύει.

Seneca, Moral Epistle 5.4

“The first thing philosophy promises is a shared communion, humanity and friendship with others. Our differences from others will keep us from this promise. We must examine that those very values through which we hope to create admiration do not become laughable and hateful”

Hoc primum philosophia promittit, sensum communem,humanitatem et congregationem. A qua professione dissimilitudo nos separabit. Videamus, ne ista, per quae admirationem parare volumus, ridicula et odiosa sint.

 

Gnomologium Vaticanum 289

“Erasistratos [the doctor] used to say that medicine was philosophy’s sister: one treats maladies of the spirit, the other treats those of the body.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς τὴν ἰατρικὴν τῆς φιλοσοφίας ἔφησεν ἀδελφὴν εἶναι· τὴν μὲν γὰρ τὰ ψυχικά, τὴν δὲ τὰ σωματικὰ θεραπεύειν ἀῤῥωστήματα.

 

Epictetus, Encheiridion 22

“If you desire to study philosophy, prepare to be mocked because many people will ridicule you”

Εἰ φιλοσοφίας ἐπιθυμεῖς, παρασκευάζου αὐτόθεν ὡς καταγελασθησόμενος, ὡς καταμωκησομένων σου πολλῶν

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Laurentius de Voltolina