Easy lessons on reasoning - by Richard Whately -(1872) PDF book

Easy lessons on reasoning 

Easy lessons on reasoning
Easy lessons on reasoning - by Richard Whately

The subject treated in the following pages is one that has not usually been introduced into the course of elementary studies for young persons of all classes. It is supposed by some, that the difference between a better and a worse reasoner depends either wholly on natural ability, or on that combined with practice, or on each man's greater or less proficiency in the subjects he is treating of. And 'others again consider a systematic study of the principles of Reasoning as suitable only to a few persons of rare endowments, and of a peculiar turn of mind, and to those only in an advanced stage of their education. That this branch of study is requisite for all, and is attainable by all, and presents not, necessarily, any greater difficulties than the rudiments of Arithmetic, Geometry, and Grammar, all this cannot be so well evinced in any other way as by experiment. 

If the perusal of these Lessons, or of the half of them, fail to satisfy on this point any tolerably attentive reader, it is not likely he would be convinced by any distinct argument to the same effect that could be offered. 

The work has very little claim to novelty, except as to the simplicity and familiarity of its form. But without making any discovery, strictly so-called, of anything previously altogether unknown, it is possible since ''discovery" is a relative word to be, practically a discoverer, by bringing within the reach of thousands some important branch of knowledge of which they would otherwise have remained destitute all their lives. 
And in regard to the present subject, a familiar introduction to the study is precisely what has been hitherto wanting. The existing treatises upon it may be compared to ships well freighted, but which can only unlade at a few wharves, carefully constructed, in advantageous situations. 

The want is of small boats drawing very little water, which can carry ashore small parcels of the cargo on every part of the coast, and run up into every little creek. Should the attempt to supply this deficiency prove as successful, as there is the reason, from the trial that has been already made (in the Saturday Magazine], to hope, an addition by no means unimportant will have been made to the ordinary course of elementary education. 

To frame, indeed, a system of rules that should equalize persons of all varieties of capacity would be a project no less chimerical in this than in other departments of learning. But it would certainly be a great point gained, if all persons were taught to exercise the reasoning faculty, as well as the natural capacity of each, would permit; for there is good reason to suspect, that, in this point, men fail quite as often from want of attention, and of systematic cultivation of their powers, as from natural deficiency. And it is at least worth trying the experiment, whether all may not be, in some degree, trained in the right exercise of a faculty which all in some degree, possess, and which all must, more or less, exercise, whether they exercise it well or ill. It was at one time contemplated to subjoin an Index of the technical terms, with brief definitions of them, and references to the Lessons and Sections. 

But, on second thought, it has been judged best to omit this and to recommend each student to draw up such an index for himself. It is for student*, strictly so-called, that is, persons employed in acquiring an elementary knowledge of the subject, that the work is chiefly designed: and for these, no exercise could be devised more calculated to facilitate their study than that of carefully compiling an Index, and also expanding the Table of Contents, so as to give a brief summary of the matter of each Lesson. And this being the case, it would not be any real saving of labour to the learner, to place before him such an Index and Table of Contents already drawn up. 

It may be worthwhile to suggest to the Teacher to put before his pupils, previously to their reading each Lesson, some questions pertaining, to the matter of it, requiring of them answers, oral or written, the best they can think of without consulting the book. 

Next let them read the Lessons, having other questions, such as may lead to any needful explanations, put before them as they proceed. And afterwards let them be examined (introducing numerous examples framed by themselves and by the teacher), as to the portion they have learned, in order to judge how far they remember it. Of these three kinds of questions, which may be called,. 

Preliminary questions; ii. questions of instruction; and iii. questions of examination, the last alone are, by a considerable portion of Instructors, commonly employed. And the elementary books are commonly known as "catechisms," or " books in question and answer,'' consist in the reality of questions of this description. But the second kind what is properly to be called instructive questioning is employed by all who deserve to be reckoned, good teachers. 

The first kind the preliminary questioning is employed (systematically and constantly) but by few. And at first sight, it might be supposed by those who have not had the experience of it, that it would be likely to increase the learner's difficulties. But if any well-qualified instructor will but carefully and judiciously try the experiment (in teaching any kind of science), he will be surprised to find to how great a degree this exercise of the student's mind on the subject will contribute to his advancement. He will find, that what has been taught in the mode above suggested, will have been learnt in a shorter time, will have been far the more thoroughly understood, and will be fixed incomparably the better in the memory.

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