Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Interruptions During Lectures

In my many years as a student, I always resented those fellow students who wasted valuable class time with their stupid questions and comments. I paid my tuition money to listen to the professor lecture, I thought to myself, not to hear some half-baked student spout off. Plutarch criticizes those who interrupt lectures in his treatise On Listening to Lectures 18 (= Moralia 47f-48b; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
On the other hand, however, we certainly must not neglect the mistake that leads to the opposite extreme, which some persons are led to commit by laziness, thus making themselves unpleasant and irksome. For when they are by themselves they are not willing to give themselves any trouble, but they give trouble to the speaker by repeatedly asking questions about the same things, like unfledged nestlings always agape toward the mouth of another, and desirous of receiving everything ready prepared and predigested.

There is another class, who, eager to be thought astute and attentive out of due place, wear out the speakers with loquacity and officiousness, by continually propounding some extraneous and unessential difficulty and asking for demonstrations of matters that need no demonstration, and so, as Sophoclesa puts it,
Much time it takes to go a little way,
not only for themselves but for the rest of the company too. For holding back the speaker on every possible occasion by their inane and superfluous questions, as in a company of persons travelling together, they impede the regular course of the lecture, which has to put up with halts and delays.

a Sophocles, Antigone 237.

οὐ μὴν οὐδὲ τῆς πρὸς τοὐναντίον ἁμαρτίας ἀμελητέον, ἣν ἁμαρτάνουσιν οἱ μὲν ὑπὸ νωθείας, ἀηδεῖς καὶ κοπώδεις ὄντες· οὐ γὰρ ἐθέλουσι γενόμενοι καθ᾿ αὑτοὺς πράγματα ἔχειν, ἀλλὰ παρέχουσι τῷ λέγοντι, πολλάκις ἐκπυνθανόμενοι περὶ τῶν αὐτῶν, ὥσπερ ἀπτῆνες νεοσσοὶ κεχηνότες ἀεὶ πρὸς ἀλλότριον στόμα καὶ πᾶν ἕτοιμον ἤδη καὶ διαπεπονημένον ὑπ᾿ ἄλλων ἐκλαμβάνειν ἐθέλοντες.

ἕτεροι δὲ προσοχῆς καὶ δριμύτητος ἐν οὐ δέοντι θηρώμενοι δόξαν ἀποκναίουσι λαλιᾷ καὶ περιεργίᾳ τοὺς λέγοντας, ἀεί τι προσδιαποροῦντες τῶν οὐκ ἀναγκαίων καὶ ζητοῦντες ἀποδείξεις τῶν οὐ δεομένων·

οὕτως ὁδὸς βραχεῖα γίγνεται μακρά,
ὥς φησι Σοφοκλῆς, οὐκ αὐτοῖς μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις. ἀντιλαμβανόμενοι γὰρ ἑκάστοτε κεναῖς καὶ περιτταῖς ἐρωτήσεσι τοῦ διδάσκοντος, ὥσπερ ἐν συνοδίᾳ, τὸ ἐνδελεχὲς ἐμποδίζουσι τῆς μαθήσεως, ἐπιστάσεις καὶ διατριβὰς λαμβανούσης.

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