Course Lecturing Learn To Classify
The definition of science as "knowledge classified," while leaving much
to be said, is perhaps, as satisfactory as any that could be condensed
into two words.
A trained capacity for classification is wholly indispensable in a
course lecturer. We all know the speaker who announces his subject and
then rambles off all over the universe. With this speaker, everybody
knows that, no matter what the subject or the occasion of the meeting,
it is going to be the same old talk that has done duty, how long nobody
If, under the head of "surplus value" you talk twenty minutes about
prohibition, how will you avoid repetition when you come to speak on the
The surest way to acquire this qualification is to study the sciences.
The dazzling array of facts which science has accumulated, owe half
their value to the systematization they have received at the hands of
her greatest savants.
It is impossible to take a step in scientific study without coming face
to face with her grand classifications. At the very beginning science
divides the universe into two parts, the inorganic and the organic. The
inorganic is studied under the head of "physics"; the organic, under
Physics (not the kind one throws to the dogs, of course) is then
subdivided into Astronomy, Chemistry, and Geology, while Biology has its
two great divisions, Zoology (animals) and Botany (plants), all these
having subdivisions reaching into every ramification of the material
universe, which is the real subject matter of science, being as it is
the only thing about which we possess any "knowledge."
Another way of learning to classify is to select a subject and then
"read it up." Here is a good method:
Take a ten-cent copy book, the usual size about eight by six inches and
begin on the first inside page. Write on the top of the page, left side,
a good subject, leaving that page and the one opposite to be used for
that question. Turn over and do the same again on the next page with
some other subject. This practice of selecting subjects, in itself, will
be valuable training.
In the search for subjects take any good lecture syllabus and select
those about which you have a fair general idea. You will soon learn to
frame some of your own. Good examples of standard questions are "Free
Will," "Natural Selection," "Natural Rights," "Economic Determinism,"
"Mutation," "Individualism," and a host of others, all of which have a
distinct position in thought, and about which there is a standard
Then, in your general reading, whenever you come across anything of
value in any book, on any of your listed subjects, turn to the page in
your copy book and enter it up, author, volume, chapter and page. When
you come to lecture on that question, there it will be, or, at least,
you will know just where it is.
Of course, the two pages devoted to "Natural Rights" would mention,
among other references, Prof. David G. Ritchie's book on "Natural
Rights"; and the eighth essay of Huxley's First Volume of "Collected
Essays," in which he annihilates Henry George.
All this means an immense quantity of reading, but unless you have
carefully read and weighed about all the best that has been said on any
question, your own opinions will have no value, and it is simply
presumption to waste the time of an audience doling out a conception
that, for aught you know, may have been knocked in the head half a
What can be more tiresome than the prattle about "absolute justice,"
"eternal truth," "inalienable rights," "the identity of the ethics of
Christianity with those of Socialism," and a lot of other theories,
which lost their footing in scientific literature and transmigrated to
begin a new career among the uninformed, sixty years ago.
Of course, some of these positions look all right to you now, but when
you learn what has been revealed about them by the science and
philosophy of the last six decades, they will seem about as rational as
the doctrine of a personal devil or the theory of a flat earth.
And until your reading is wide enough to give you this view of them, you
had better not attempt course lecturing in the twentieth century.
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