« ForrigeFortsæt »
which relate to one subject ; that is, all the affairs of one war, one league, one confederacy, one council, &c. though it lasted many years, and under many rulers.
jin :) So in writing the lives of men, which is called biography, some authors follow the tract of their years, and place every thing in the precise order of time when it occurred ; others throw the temper and character of their persons, their private life, their public stations, their personal occurrences, their domestic conduct, their speeches, their books or writings, their sickness and death, intoʻso many distinct chapters.
In chronology some writers make their epochas to begin all with one letter : so in the book called Ductor Historicus, the periods all begin with C; as, creation, cateclysm, or deluge, Chaldean empire, Cyrus, Christ, Constantine, &c. Some divide their accounts of time according to the four great monarchies; Assyrian, Persian, Grecian and Roman. Others think it serves the memory best to divide all their subjects into the remarkable number of sevens ; so Prideaux has written an Introduction to History. And there is a book of divinity called Fasciculus Controcersarium, by an author of the same name, written in the same inethod, wherein every controversy bas seden questions belonging to it; though the order of nature seems to be too much neg. lected by a confinement to this septenary number.
Those writers and speakers, whose chief business is to amuse .or delight, to allure, terrify, or persuade mankind, do not confine themselves to any natural order, but in a cryptical or hidden method, adapt every thing to their designed ends. Sometimes they omit those things which might injure their design, or grow tedious to their bearers, though they seem to bave a necessay reJation to the point in hand : sometimes they add those things which have no great reference to the subject, but are suited to allure or refresh the mind and the ear. They dilate sometimes, and flourish long upon little incidents, and they skip over, and but lightly touch the drier part of the theme. They place the first things last, and the last things first, with wondrous art, and yet so manage it as to conceal their artifice, and lead the senses and passions of their hearers into a pleasing and powerful captivity.
It is chiefly poesy and oratory that require the practice of this kind of arbitrary method ; they omit things essential which are not beautiful, they insert little needless circumstances, and beautiful digressions, they invert times and actions, in order to place every thing in the most affecting light, and for this end in their practice they neglect all logical forms; yet a good acquaintance with the forms of Logic and natural method is of admirable use to those who would attain these arts in perfection. Hereby they will be able to range their own thoughts in such a method aud schieme, Ad to take a more large and comprehensive survey of their subject and design in all the parts of it; and by this means they will better judge what to choose and what to refuse ; and bow to dress and manage the whole scene before them, sp'as to attain their own ends with greater glory and success, /
CHAP. II. --The Rules of Method, general and particular.
THE general requisites of true method in the pursuit or communication of knowledge, may be all comprised onder the following heads. It must be (1.) Safe. (2.) Plain and easy. .(3.) Distinct. (4.) Fall or without defect. (5.) Short or without super flity. (6.) Proper to the subject and the design. (7.) Connected.
1 Rulé I. Among all the qaalifications of a good method, there is none more necessary and important than that it should bessafe and secure from error ; ani to this end these four parti. calał or special directions should be observed.
1! ** Use great care and circumspection in laying the foundations of your discourse, or your scheme of thoughts upon any subject. Piuose propositions which are to stand as first principles, and on which the wlrole argument depends, must be viewed on all sitles with the utmost accuracy, lest an error being admitted tbere, should diffuse itself through the whole subject. See therefore that your general defisitions or descriptions are as accurate as the nature of the thing will bear; see that your general divisions and distributions be just and 'exact, according to the rules given in the first part of Logic; see that your axioms be sufficiently evidelity so as to demand the assent of those that examine them with due attention ; see tirat your first and more im. mediate consequences from these principles be well drawn; and take the sanie care of all other propositions that have a powerful and spreading influence through the several parts of your discourse,
For want of this care sometimes a large treatise has been written by a long deduction of consequences from one or two dowbiful principles, which principles have been effectually refuted in a few lines, and thus the whole treatise has been destroyed at once ; so the largest and fairest building sinks and tumbles to the ground, if the foundation and corner-stones of it are feeble and insufficient.
2. It is a very advisable thing that your primary and fundamental propositions be not only evident and true, but they should be made a little familiar to the mind by dwelling upon them before you proceed farther.” By this means you will gain so full an acquaiutance with them, that you may draw consequences from them with much more freedom, with greater variety, brighter evidence, and with a firmer certainty, than if you have but a slight and sudden view of them..
3. As you proceed in the connection of your arguments, “ see that your ground be made firm in every step." See that every
link of your chain of reasoning be strong and good; for if but one link be feeble and doubtful, the whole chain of arguments feels the weakness of it, and lies exposed to every objector, and the original question remaios updetermined.
4. “ Draw up all your propositions and arguments with so much caution, and express your ideas with such a just limitation, as may preclude or anticipate any objections." Yet remember this is only to be done as far as it is possible, without too much intangling the question, or introducing complicated ideas and obscuring the sense. But if such a cautious and limited dress of the question should render the ideas too much complicated, or the sense obscure, then it is better to keep the argument more simple, clear and easy to be understood, and afterwards mention the objections distinctly in their full strength, and give a distinet answer to them.
Rule II. Let your method be plain and easy, so that your hearers, or readers, as well as yourself, may run through it without embarrassment, and may take a clear and comprehensive view of the whole scheme. To this end the following particular directions will be useful.
1. « Begin always with those things which are best known, and most obvious, whereby the mind may have no difficulty or fatigue, and proceed by regular and casy steps to things that are more difficult." And as far as possible, let not the understanding, or the proof of any of your positions, depend on the positions that follow, but always on those which go before. It is a matter of wonder that in so knowing an age as this, there should be so many persons offering violence daily to this rule, by teaching the Latin language by a grammar written in Latin, which method seems to require a perfect knowledge of an unknowo tongue, in order to learn the first rudiments of it.
2. “ Do not affect excessive haste in learning or teaching any science, nor hurry at once into the midst of it,” lest you be too soon involved in several new and strange ideas and propositions, which cannot be well understood without a longer and closer attention to those which go before. Such sort of speed is but a waste of time, and will constrain you to take many steps backward again, if you would arrive at a regular and complete knowledge of the subject.
3. “ Be not fond of crowding too many thoughts and reasonings into one sentence or paragraph, beyond the apprehension or capacity of your readers or hearers." There are some persons of a good genius, and a capacious mind, who write and : speak very obscurely upon this account; they affect a long train of dependencies before they come to a period; they imagine that they can never fill their page with too much sense ; but they little think how they bury their own best ideas in the crowd, and render them in a manner invisible and useless to the greatest part of inankind. Such men may be great scholars, yet they are but poor teachers.
4. For the same reason, avoid too many subdivisions. Con. trive your scheme of thoughts in such a manner as may finish your whole argument with as few inferior branchings as reasop will admit; and let them be such as are obvious and open to the understanding, that they may come within one single view of the mind. This will not only assist the uoderstanding to receive, but it will aid the memory also to retain truth; whereas a discourse cut out into a vast multitude of gradual subordinations has many inconveniences in it; it gives pain to the mind and memory, in surveying and retaining the scheme of discourse, and exposes the unskilful hearers to mingle the superior and inferior particulars together; it leads them into a thick wood instead of open day-light, and places them in a labyrinth, instead of a plain path.
5. “ Give all diligence in your younger years to obtain a clear and easy way of expressing your conceptions,” that your words, as fast as you utter them, may stamp your own ideas exactly on the mind of the hearer. This is a most happy talent for the conveyance of truth, and an excellent security against mistakes and needless controversies.
Rule III. Let your method be distinct, and without the perplexing mixture of things that ought to be kept separate, and this will be easily practised by four directions.
1. “ Do not bring unnecessary heterogeneous* matter into your discourse on any subject;" that is, do not mingle an argument on one subject with matters that relate entirely to another, but just so far as is necessary to give a clearer knowledge of the subject in hand. Examples in Logic may be borrowed from any of the sciences to illustrate the rules ; but long interpositions of natural philosophy, of the imagination and passions, of agency of spirits united to bodies, &c. break the thread of discourse, and perplex the subject.
2. “ Let every complicated theme or idea be divided into its distioct single parts, as far as the nature of the subject and your present design requires it. Though you must not abouvd in needless subdivisions, yet something of this work is very neces
* Things of one kind are called bomogeneous, things of different kinds are heterogeneous.
sary; and it is a good judgment alone can dictate how far to proceed in it, and when to stop.
Compound ideas must be reduced to a simple form, in order to understand them well. You may easily masier that subject in all the parts of it by regular succession, which would confound the understanding to survey them at once. So we come to the knowledge of a very perplexed diagram in geometry, or a complicated machine in mechanics, by having it parcelled out to us into its several parts and principles, according to this and the foregoing rule of method.
3. “Call every idea, proposition and argument to its proper class, and keep cach part of the subject in its proper place.”Put those things all together that belong to one part or property, one consideration or view of your subject
. This will prevent needless repetitions, and keep you from intermixing things which are different. We must maintain this distinction of things and places if we would be safe from error. It is confusion that leads us into endless mistakes, which naturally arise from a variety of ideas ill-joined, sorted, or ill-disposed. It is one great use of method, ibat a multitude of thoughts and propositions may be so distinctly ranged in their proper situations, that the mind may not be overwhelmed with a confused attention to them all at once, nor be distracted with their variety, nor be tempted to unite things which ought to be separated, oor to disjoin things which should be united
4. “ In the partition of your discourse into distinct heads, take heed that your particulars do not interfere with the general, nor with each other.” Think it is not enough that you make use of distinct expressions in each particular, but take care that the idcas be distinct also. It is mere foolery to multiply distinct particulars in treating of things, where the difference of your particulars lies only in names and words.
Rule IV. The method of treating a subject should be plenary or full, so that nothing may be wanting ; nothing which is necessary or proper should be omitted.
When you are called to explain a subject, do not pass by, por skip over any thing in it which is very difficult or obscure.
When you enumerate the parts or the properties of any subject, do it in a complete and comprehensive manner.
When you are asserting or proving any truth, see that every doubtful or disputable part of the argument be well supported and confirmed.
If you are to illustrate or argue a point of difficulty, be not too scanty of words, but rather become a little copious and diffusive in your language : set the truth before the reader in several lights, turn the various sides of it to view, in order to give a full idea aod firm evidence of the proposition.