Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Method of Study

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), Notes of a Life (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1910), pp. 25-26:
The foundation of all my studies was now the Greek Testament, upon which I made the results of my classical, theological, and general reading to bear, by the insertion of notes in the blank leaves written in the Latin language. The same plan I have since formed with other books, such as Plato's 'Republic' and Aristotle's 'Politics,' and have ever had cause to felicitate myself on the rich results of the single, direct, and businesslike method of study laid down for me by the stout, club-bearing Gamaliel of Old Aberdeen [Dr. Patrick Forbes]. Take your knowledge of the case from the evidence of the original witnesses, from them directly, and from them only in the first place; come face to face with the primary facts of the matter you are going to deal with, you will then be in a condition to profit by the observations and opinions of other men, which, without such a previous course of independent training, could only confound and cripple you. This was what my Gamaliel taught me; and, however common it may be in Scotland and elsewhere to substitute a traditional indoctrination about fundamental facts for a direct dealing with the facts themselves, there cannot be the slightest doubt that the latter is the only true method of scientific and philosophical investigation about an important matter of which our systematic books on all subjects are apt to act, either as a thick cloud which must be blown away, or a strong wall which must be knocked down, before the mind can be brought into living contact with the object of its cognitive activity.

Beatrice Offor (1864–1920), A Knotty Point,
in Bruce Castle Museum

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