The mark of an educated man

“It is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits;”

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Here is one of the most important principles of thought ever expressed and one that has been universally neglected in our day. We look for scientific precision in our study of literature, for artistic judgment in math and spelling.

When we assess, we look for statistical variation of immeasurable matters.

Why? Because we don’t know the nature of the subjects we are studying. Until we do, we should ask more questions and make fewer assertions.

Only the classical curriculum resolves this problem for the simple reason that Aristotle, who was wrong about things for which he lacked tools, saw into the nature of the subjects and elucidated them for us. Because he paid attention. He looked closely and steadily at reality. He didn’t exclude the bits he didn’t like, as the naturalist and the spiritualist do.

May we who seek to restore the classical tradition take confidence in its enormous achievements and not settle for anything less than the attainment of this “mark of an educated man.” It will require a curriculum that reflects this principle and a mode of teaching that honors it, but with courage and wisdom we can get there.

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