AA And Laid-Back Boys

Advancement of Learning

The Sixth Book.


  Two General Appendices of the Art of Transmission; Critical and Pedagogical.   
THERE remain two appendices touching the transmission of knowledge in general; the one Critical, the other Pedagogical. For as the principal part of transmission of knowledge consists in the writing of books, so the relative part thereof turns on the reading of books. Now reading is either directed by teachers, or attained by each man's own endeavours; and to this these two knowledges which I have mentioned appertain.
    To the critical part belongs, first, the true correction and amended edition of approved authors; whereby both themselves receive justice and their students light. Yet in this the rash diligence of some has done no little harm. For many critics, when they meet a passage which they do not understand, immediately suppose that there is a fault in the copy. As in that passage of Tacitus, where he relates that when a certain colony asserted before the senate the right of asylum, their arguments were not very favourably listened to by the emperor and the senate; whereupon the ambassadors, fearing for the success of their cause, gave a good sum of money to titus Vinius to support them -- by which means they prevailed. "Then" (says Tacitus) "the dignity and antiquity of the colony had its weight;" meaning that the arguments which appeared light before gained fresh weight by the money. But a critic, and he not one of the worst, here erased the word tum, and substituted tantum. And this bad habit of critics has brought it to pass that (as some one has wisely remarked) "the most corrected copies are often the least correct." Moreover, to speak truly, unless critics be learned in the sciences which the books they edit treat of, their diligence is not without its danger.
      Secondly, there belongs to the Critical part the interpretation and explication of authors, -- commentaries, scholia, annotations, collections of beauties, and the like. In labours of this kind however some of the critics have been visited with that very bad disease, of leaping over many of the obscurer places, while they linger and expatiate to tediousness on those which are clear enough; as if the object were not so much to illustrate the author as to display on every possible opportunity the extensive learning and various reading of the critic himself. It were especially to be desired (though this is a matter which belongs rather to the art of transmission in the main, than to the appendices thereof) that every writer who handles arguments of the obscurer and more imporetant kind, should himself subjoin his own explanations; that so the text may not be interrupted by digressions and expositions, and the nontes may not be at variance with the writer's meaning. Something of the kind I suspect in Theon's Commentary on Euclid.
    There belongs thirdly to the Critical part (and from this indeed it derives its name) the insertin of some brief judgment concerning th eauthors edited, and comparison of them with other writers on the same subjects; that students amy by such censure be both advised what books to read and better prepared when they come to read them. This last office is indeed, so to speak, the critic's chair; which has certainly in our age been ennobled by some great men, -- men in my judgment above the stature of critics.
      As for the Pedagogical part, the shortest rule would be, "Consult the schools of the Jesuits;" for nothing better has been put in practice. Nevertheless I will as usual give a few hints, gleaning an ear here and there. I am clearly in favour of a collegiate education for boys and young men; not in private houses, nor merely under schoolmasters. For in colleges there is a greater emulation of the youths amongst themselves; there is also the sight and countenance of grave men, which tends to modesty, and forms their young minds from the very first after that model; and in short there are very many advantages in a collegiate education. For the order and manner of teaching, I would say first of all, -- avoid abridgments and a certain precocity of learning, which makes the mind over bold, and causes great proficiency rather in show than in fact. Also let some encouragement be given to the free exercise of the pupils' minds and tastes; I mean, if any of them, besides performing the prescribed exercises, shall steal time withal for other pursuits to which he is more inclined, let him not be checked. Observe moreover (what perhaps has not hitherto been remarked) that there are two ways of training and exercising and preparing the mind, which proceed in opposite directions. The one begins with the easier tasks, and so leads on gradually to the more difficult; the other begins by enforcing and pressing the more difficult, that when they are mastered the easier ones may be performed with pleasure. For it is one method to begin swimming with bladders, which keep you up; and another to begin dancing with heavy shoes, which weigh you down. Nor is it easy to tell how much a judicious intermixture of these methods helps to advance the faculties of the mind and body. Again, the application and choice of studies according to the nature of the mind is to be taught, is a matter of onderful use and judgment; the due and careful observation whereof is due from the masters to the parents, that they may be able to advise them as to the course of life they should choose for their sons. And herein it should be carefully observed, that as a man will advance far fastest in those pursuits to which he is anturally inclined, so with respect to those for which he is by defect of nature most unsuited there are found in studies properly chosen a cure and remedy for his defects. For example, if one be bird-witted, that is easily distracted and unable to keep his attention as long as he should, Mathematics provides a remedy; for in them if the mind be caught away but a moment, the demonstration has to be commenced anew. Exercises, again, it is obvious, play the principal part in instruction. But few have observed that there ought to be not only a wise choice and course of exercises, but a wise intermission of them also; for it is well observed by Cicero, "that men in their exercises for the most part exercise their faults as well as their faculties," so that an ill habit is sometimes acquired along with the good. It is safer therefore to intermit exercises from time to time and return to them after a while, than continually to persue and press them. But enough of this. Certainly these are matters not very grand or imposing at first sight, yet of singular fruit and efficacy. For as the good or ill thriving of plants depends chiefly upon the good or ill treatment they received when they were young and tender; and as the immense increase of the Roman empire is by some deservedly attributed to the virtue and wisdom of the first six kings, who were in truth as the tutors and guardians of it in its infancy; so surely the culture and ordering of youthful or tender years has a power which, though latent and not perceptible to everybody, neither length of time nor assiduity and earnestness of labour in mature age can afterwards countervail. It will not be amiss to observe also, that even mean faculties, when they fall into great men or great matters, sometimes work great and important effects. Of this I will adduce a memorable example; the rather, because the Jesuits appear not to despise this kind of discipline; therein judging (as I think) well. It is a thing indeed, if practised professionally, of low repute; but if it be made a part of discipline, it is of excellent use. I mean stage-playing: an art which strengthens the memory, regulates the tone and effect of the voice and pronunciation, teaches a decent carriage of the countenance and gesture, gives not a little assurance, and accustoms young men to bear being looked at. the example which I shall give, taken from Tacitus, is that of one Vibulenus, formerly an actor, then a soldier in the Pannoanian legions. This man had at the death of Augustus raised a mutiny, whereupon Blœsus, the lieutenant, committed some of the mutineers to prison. The soldiers however broke in and let them out; whereupon Vibulenus getting up to speak, began thus; "These poor innocent wretches you have restored to light and life; but who shall restore life to my brother, or my brother to me? whom, being sent hither in message from the legions of Germany, to treat of the common cause, this man has murdered last night by some of his swordsmen, whom he keeps and arms for the execution of soldiers. Answer, Blœsus, where have you thrown his body? Enemies themselves deny not burial. When with kisses and tears I shall have satiated my grief, command me also to be slain beside him; only let these my fellows, seeing we are put ot death for no crime, but because we consulted for the good of the legions, have leave to bury us." With which words he excited such excessive jealousy and alarm, that, had it not shortly afterwards appeared that nothing of the sort had happened, nay, that he had never had a brother, the soldiers would hardly have kept their hands off the prefect; but the fact was that he played the whole thing as if it had been a piece on the stage.
      And now I am come to the end of my treatise concerning Rational Knowledges; wherein if I have sometimes made the divisions other than those that are received, yet let it not be thought that I disallow all those divisions which I do not use. For there is a double necessity imposed upon me of altering the divisions. First, because to reduce into one class things next in nature, and to gather into one bundle htings wanted for use, are operations differing in the very end and intention. For as a secretary of a king or state, when he arranges his papers in his study or general cabiney, puts those things together no doubt, which are of like nature, -- treatises by themselves in one place, instructions by themselves in another, foreign letters, domestic letters, and the like, each apart by themselves, -- but when on the contrary he arranges them in his boxes or particular cabinet, he puts those together which, though of different kinds, he thinks he will have occasion to use together; so in this general cabinet of knowledge it was necessary for me to make the divisions according to the nature of the things themselves, whereas if I had been to handle any particular knowledge I should have adopted the divisions fittest for use and practice. Secondly, because the introduction of the Disiderata, and the incorporation of them with the rest, involved as a consequence an alteration in the distribution of the existing sciences. For suppose (by way of demonstration) that the arts which we now have are as 15, and that the same with the disiderata added are as 20; I say that the factors of the number 15 are not the same with the factors of the number 20. For the factors of 15 are 3 and 5; the factors of 20 are 2, 4, 5, and 10. It is plain therefore that these things could not be otherwise. And so much for the Logical Sciences.
[@ Bacon, Works IV, 493-8]