Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Classical Education: The Spirit of Inquiry

“Classical education is not, preeminently, of a specific time or place. It stands instead for a spirit of inquiry and a form of instruction concerned with the development of style through language and conscience through myth. The key word here is inquiry. Everything springs from the special nature of the inquiry. The inquiry dictates the form of instruction and establishes the moral framework for thought and action. Classical inquiry possesses three essential attributes. The first of these is a general curiosity, as opposed to the systematic or specific interest of modern science. One does not launch a classical inquiry with a preconceived methodology or from the point of view of an established academic discipline. Consequently, the field is open for all sorts of questions, whether regarding the true nature of happiness, the cause of the Persian wars, or the source of the Nile. Second, one responds to these questions by forming imaginative hypotheses. The very nature of the questions, being far-flung and wide-ranging, often makes impossible what qualify today as scientific hypotheses. Third, one completes the inquiry by devising methods for testing the hypotheses. Again, the restrictions placed by modern science upon methodology are not adequate. The method used to test the hypothesis formed in a classical inquiry may involve reason or observation, logic or experimentation. The inquirer may even seek confirmation for his hypothesis in an emotional or religious experience. How else, ultimately, does one test the value of a poem or the validity of God’s love?

General curiosity, imagination in forming hypotheses, and method in testing them, then, mark the classical spirit of inquiry. This bent of mind allows the educated man to go on educating himself or extending the realms of knowledge for his fellows.”
David V. Hicks, Norms & Nobility, p.18

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