Excerpt from Sir William Hamilton: The Man and His Philosophy; Two Lectures Delivered Before the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, January and February 1883
In those centuries no doubt the aim of university instruction was culture, rather than the search after new truths, or even putting men in the way of seeking new truths. It was culture, too, of a somewhat narrow kind, being that mainly of intellectual acuteness, dexterity in a debate, in propugning or impugning a given thesis. It was a culture, in fact, almost exclusively based on the Logic and Philosophy of Aristotle. The circumstances of the times led to this, the character of the teachers as mainly ecclesiastics, but above all the system of teaching which existed, that of regenting, as it was called. This meant that the student was handed over at the commencement of his university studies to a single teacher, who carried him through the four years' course, instructing him in the different subjects in turn, and finally presenting him for graduation. The teaching was mainly from appointed text-books, or from dictata given by the regent, in the different subjects. These the student had to master. There was little or no room for free thought on the part either of teacher or pupil. The practice of disputation, which allowed some scope for individual thought, hardly rose beyond arguments pro and con on the given thesis.
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