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part v: Gershom Carmichael’s Account of His Teaching Method - Gershom Carmichael, Natural Rights on the Threshold of the Scottish Enlightenment: The Writings of Gershom Carmichael 
Natural Rights on the Threshold of the Scottish Enlightenment: The Writings of Gershom Carmichael, ed. James Moore and Michael Silverthorne (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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Gershom Carmichael’s Account of His Teaching Method
Gershom Carmichael’s Account of His Teaching Method
(Written in August, 1712)
The Method I have taken and propose to take with ye Class now under my Charge, is as followes.
When they enter’d Semys,1 I employ’d them, for some time, in expounding the Greek Testament & going over ye most necessary things in ye Greek Grammar.
In November, so soon as I could get them furnish’d with ye first sheet of my Compend of Logick (which was then printing) I began them to it, largely exploring every Lesson, when I gave it out, & afterwards examining them upon it, with a repeated explication. Thus I went thro’ ye Compend two or three times, save that I did not prelect the Lesson at giving it out, after the first time. Here I insisted verry largely on the forms of Propositions & Syllogismes, both Categoricall & those that are not so; still shewing them how all are reducible to ye Categorick form. But I reserv’d at least ye half of ye day for ye Greek, till their publick Examination was over.
After the Examination, I turn’d their Lesson, in the Greek Testament, from the Use of an ordinary Greek Lesson, to that of a sacred Exercise; no longer asking a Grammaticall Account of Words; only causing them first read a whole Verse distinctly in Greek, & then say it over in Latin. Thus they went thro’ a page or two, every Morning before Prayer (at least four Mornings in ye Week) & in the Semy Year finish’d ye Evangelists. I have continued ye same Method since, so that in their Course they’ll go thro’ ye whole New Testament.
In January I began [them] to Ars Cogitandi, as being ye best Logick, that I know extant under ye name of Logick, & that is tolerably adapted for ye Use of teaching in a University. Here likewise I prepar’d their way, for reading what was prescrib’d (as I do in all ye parts of my Course) by a previous Explication of each Lesson. In doing this, if ye year be short, & I be not verry much hurry’d, I use to read over every word of ye Lesson, & comment upon it. If otherwise, I give them a more generall View of it, & acquaint them with what I think necessary for their reading it with ye more Ease & Advantage, but especially for guarding them against Errors. And whereas, for ye help of their Memory, I use to cause them write on ye Margins of their Books here & there verry short Notes of what I think most necessary to be remarked, I endeavour, if possible, to dictate these Notes upon each Lesson, before I set them to study it. The Method describ’d in this Paragraph, being what I generally use thro’ ye whole, will not need again to be repeated.
In Ars Cogitandi, I did not oblige my Self to follow ye Author thro his Digressions, tho’ some of his morall ones are too good to be altogether passed by. The places of that book that favour Popery are already noticed, & shortly but judiciously obviated by an unknown hand, in Notes that are printed with ye Book. Besides which, I took further Notice of some of them, in my marginall Animadversions.2
What is wanting in that Book, of ye things commonly treated of in Logick, I gave them some taste of (so far as seem’d necessary) in my Theses: which (in this, as well as in ye other parts) being connected, so as to contain a Compend of ye whole Science, serve not only as Matter of Dispute, but as a Text for teaching.
I began them to ye Exercise of Disputing, I think, some time in February, having first taught them ye Rules of it, from ye Praxis subjoin’d to my printed Compend. For ye Matter of their Disputes, at first I parcell’d out to them ye Compend it self, which serv’d till ye beginning of May, when they began to dispute in ye Common Hall. From that time to ye End of ye Course, ye Theses, that are to be publickly disputed that Week, are first defended in ye Class, by those that are to impugne in publick, & impugned by those that are to defend.
The Afternoons, from ye end of March, or beginning of Aprill, were mostly spent on Pardie’s Elements of Geometry;3 in which they went thro’ 3 books that Year.
The same Year I taught them one half of De Vries his Determinationes Ontologicae:4 I design’d to have gone thro’ ye whole; but could not overtake to end both Ars Cogitandi & it that Session. And I made ye less haste to go thro ye Latter, that Severall of them were not then provided with it.
In ye Baccalour Year, I went again thro Ars Cogitandi, taking in, in ye proper places, what I had in my own Compend & Theses. This took us up till the publick Examination, or verry near it. Then I went thro’, in my ontologick Theses, those Heads, which they had learn’d ye Year before; making them at ye same time, read over again, & reflect upon, what they had learn’d in De Vries concerning them. And from that, I went on to teach them ye remainder of that Authors Determinationes Ontologicae. But because I could not reach ye end of them against ye first of January, & I was then obliged, for ye Sake of my private Schollars, to begin ye Pneumaticks, I referr’d what then remain’d of ye Ontology to ye Afternoons.
Thus, with ye new Year began De Vries his Determinationes Pneumatologicae, which I propos’d to have ended against ye first of March. But when at that time ye part de Deo was yet remaining, I chose to cause them write that part out of my own Pneumaticks; where it is contain’d in two Sheets of Paper; & consists of four Chapters, ye first of which states ye Notion, & by severall Arguments demonstrates the Existence, of a Deity; ye Second treats of ye incommunicable Attributes; ye third of ye communicable Attributes; & ye fourth of ye Operations, or externall Acts, of God.5 This I taught them instead of De Vries his third part.
However, All I could do, was to begin ye Ethicks with ye Month of Aprill; which I did, having before caus’d them write some of my Ethick Theses, which were to be ye Matter of our first Lessons. For my Resolution was, to take ye Plan of my Method from ye Theses, & to consider ye severall Chapters or Paragraphs of Pufendorf de Officio Hominis & Civis (which I at ye same time put in their hands) as they fell in with the things treated of there. Now, that ye Faculty may judge, whether I have, by this Innovation, done any Injustice, either to the Author or ye Subject, I presume to offer ye following Index of ye Theses, & ye Order in which I was thereby led to handle Pufendorfs Book.
The Declar’d Will of God, & Supream Law, or Rule to ye Actions of Rationall Creatures; ye Denominations they receive from thence, Thes: 1, 2, 3 Pufendorf Bk. I (which is allwaies to be understood till I mention ye 2nd) Cap: 2, secs. 1–3 & 11. What Actions & how far, morall & imputable. Th: 4–10. Puf. C.1. Law of God, Natural, Positive. Th: 11. Puf: C: 2. final section. The Natural Law truly Divine Th: 12, 13, 14. How immutable. Th: 15, 16: And because I here likewise consider’d whether it admitt of a Dispensation, & whether of an epieikeia, I took in Puf: C. 2. secs. 9, 10. Knowledge of ye Law of Nature, neither innate in Mens Minds, nor only learn’d from Custom, but gather’d from ye Nature of things. Th: 17. P: C. 3. sec. 12. Law of Nations, whether distinct from that of nature. Th: 10. Morality of Persons, where of Virtue, Vice, vulgar Distinction of ye Cardinal Virtues &c. Th: 19–25. First fundamentall Praecept of ye Law of Nature, to worship God. Th: 26. Puf: C. 4. Second fundamentall Praecept, to promote ye Wellfare of Mankind. Th: 27, and that, first, by procuring all innocent Advantages to ourselves, 2ly by living Sociably towards others. Th 28. Puf. C. 3. secs. 1–4. The Divine Authority & Sanction of these Praecepts. Th. 29. Puf: C. 3. secs. 10, 11. Fundamentall Errors of Hobbes. Th: 30: Right, perfect, imperfect. Justice, particular, universall. Injury. Th. 31, 32, 33. Puf: C. 2. secs. 12–18. Particular Dutys to ourselves, deducible from ye Law of Sociality. Th: 34. Pub. C. 3 final section & C. 5 sec. 1. Duty’s towards the Mind. Th: 35, Puf: C. 5. sec. 2. (Here, because Pufendorf in his litle book passes this subject too lightly, I caused them write about a Sheet of Paper out of my larger Ethick, where among other things, I treat of ye Government of ye Passions; for ye Nature & Distinction of them, as well as ye Determination of ye Will, its different Acts. Liberty &tc. had before been handled in ye Pneumaticks.) Dutys towards ye Body. Th: 36. Puf. C. 5 sec. 3. Wherever different Mens Interests Clash, we must have recourse to ye Law of Sociality for understanding ye Termes of which I remark in general. It requires an Acknowledgement of ye Natural Equality of Men. Th: 37, 38. Puf. C. 7; 2ly it does not exclude nay it requires a peculiar Care of ones self. Th: 39. 3ly Every Mans Right includes a corresponding Obligation upon others, either definite or indefinite. Th: 40. Every perfect Right naturally includes, when counteracted, two accessory Rights; ye One of endeavouring to maintain it, even by hurting him that attempts to violate it; the other of getting it repair’d, when it is actually violated. Th: 41. Since Sociality consists in so maintaining & using our own Rights, as to have a due Regard to every other Mans, there appears no better way of determining what it demands, than by considering, in order, what those Rights are, that every Man has, or is capable of having. Th: 42. These I reduce to six Classes. The first Classe contains natural Rights, such as Life, Limbs, Liberty, & ye Capacity of acquiring adventitious Rights by proper Means. Th. 43., Puf: C. 6, sec. 2. The Second Classe is of those Rights, which a Person acquires by his own proper Deed: Such as ye Property of externall things in ye hands of ye originary Acquirer. Th. 44. Here I treat, of ye Grant of externall Things to Mankind in Generall. Th. 45, 46, 47. Puf. C. 12. sec. 1. Of ye Acquisition of Property by Occupation. Th: 48–52. Puf: C. 12. secs. 2, 3. What things naturally uncapable of being so acquir’d. Th: 53. Puf: C. 12. sec. 4. The Effect of Occupation, in other things, naturall & perpetuall. How it proceeds in moveables, how in Immoveables, & how far it extends. Th: 54–58. Puf: C. 12. secs. 5, 6. Occupation of things abandon’d by ye former Owner. Th: 59. Puf: C. 12 final section. Acquisition of Property by Accession. Th: 60, 61, 62. Puf: C. 12. sec. 7. The Indefinite Obligation arising from Property. Th: 63. Puf: C. 13 sec. 1. The third Classe, is of those Rights which are acquir’d by ye concurring Deeds, of ye Acquirer, & of another from whom they are derived. Th: 64. Rights so deriv’d, either Real or personal. Th: 65. Of ye first sort, ye chief is Property. It may be convey’d, whether the Conveyance of it naturally require Delivery. Th: 66. Property is convey’d either entire, or diminish’d: Servitudes & Diminution of Property. Th: 67. Puf: C. 12 sec. 8. The conveyance of personal Rights, is either of such as were before competent to ye Conveyer and now to ye Acquirer, against a third Person, or Such as were competent to the Conveyer against ye Acquirer himself, but now being convey’d, or rather remitted, to him, are consolidated with his natural Liberty; or lastly, such as were before contain’d in the Conveyers Natural Liberty, but now, when convey’d, are competent to ye Acquirer against ye Conveyer himself. This last Sort comprehends all promissory Deeds. The frequent occasion for them & necessity of faithfull performance. Th: 68. Puf: C. 9 secs. 1, 2, 3. Three wayes of speaking of future Actions, viz. so as only to express or Defigne or so as to oblige imperfectly or perfectly. Th: 69. Puf: C. 9. secs. 6, 7. Perfect Promises either single or reciprocal. Th: 70. Puf: C. 9. sec. 5. All Deeds by which Rights are directly convey’d inter Vivos, require ye Consent of both Partyes; & are therefore enervated by Impotency of Reason, Mistake, Fraud, Force &c. Th: 71–75. Puf: C. 9. secs. 8–16. Its requisite that ye Matter of all such Conveyances be in ye power of ye Conveyer: where, of Promises of things impossible, or unlawfull. Th: 76, 77. Puf: C. 9. secs. 17, 18, 19. Promises, absolute & conditional. Th: 78. Puf: C. 9. sec. 20. Proxys in making or receiving Promises, or Conveyances or Rights whatsomever. Th: 79. Puf: C. 9. sec. 21. Of ye Obligation to truth in Assertions, as founded on an implicit promise. Th: 80. Puf: C. 10. Of Oaths. Th: 81. Puf: C. 11. Of Contracts. I.e., Bargains about such things or Performances, as come under Commerce, & first of their price, or value. Th: 82, 83. Puf: C. 14. Contracts, onerous or lucrative. In those Equality is necessary. Lucrative are Loan for Use, Mandate, & Depositum. Onerous are Barter, Sale, Letting for Hire, Loan for Consumption, & Partnership. Likewise, several Sorts of Lotteries. Contracts are secur’d by Cautioners & Pledges. Th: 84–95. Puf: C. 15. Obligations arising from ye 3rd Classe of Rights. Th: 96. The fourth Classe contains those Rights which a Person acquires immediately by ye Deed of Another, without any concuring fact of his own. Such are ye Rights acquir’d to ye Testamentary Heir, after ye Death of ye Testator, by his declar’d Will. Th: 97. Puf: C. 12. sec. 12. To ye Heir ab Intestato, by ye presum’d Will of the Defunct. Th: 98. Puf: C. 12. secs. 10, 11. To ye owner, or any having reall Right in a thing, as against ye Possessor of it, by that Possession. Th: 99. Puf: C. 13. sec. 2, & final section. To ye Owner against him that had posses’d it, without Right, tho bona fide, in so far as he’s a Gainer by it. Th: 100. Puf: C. 13. secs. 3, 4. To ye Defuncts Creditors, & Legatars against ye Heir, by his entering. Th: 101. To him at whose Expence Another, without Gift or Paction, has receiv’d Advantage, against the Receiver, by his so receiving. Th: 102. The Right to reparation of Dammage, acquir’d to him that suffers it against him that did it, by ye Trespass of ye Latter. How far it extends &c. Th: 103, 104, 105. Puf: C. 6. sec. 4 ff. And lastly ye Right any one has in the necessary Maintenance of his Right, to hurt him that attempts to violate it, which Right he acquires by ye others unjust Attempt. This Maintenance consists either in Defence of Right, or in Prosecution of it. Th: 106. Defence how far to be carried in naturall, & how far in Civill Society. Th: 107–111. Puf: C. 5. secs. 5–16. Violent Prosecution not allow’d to private persons in civil Society: how far to be carry’d in ye State of Nature. Th: 112, 113. Puf: C. 5. sec. 17. The Fifth Classe is of Rights arising from ye Favour of Necessity, occasion’d by some singular Event. Th: 114–117. Puf: C. 5. secs. 10 ff. Of ye Extinction & Loss of Rights. Naturall Rights how capable to be extinguish’d or lost. How Reall Rights. Th: 118. Personall Rights commonly said to be extinguish’d when ye other ceases to be obliged. Th: 119. How many wayes Obligations expire. Th: 120–123. Puf: C. 16. Besides ye perfect Rights of particular Persons or Services, there are some such Rights competent to ye whole Body of Mankind, & in their behalf to be exercis’d by ye particular Members of it, such as that of hindering any Body to destroy himself or another without Cause, tho witting, etc. Th: 124. Puf: C. 5 sec. 4. The sixth and last Classe is of imperfect Rights: those of Humanity, Friendship, Gratitude, etc. Th: 125–128. Puf: C. 8. Of Interpretation. Th: 129. Puf: C. 17. Of particular Societys. Th: 130. Of Conjugall Society. The Termes of it by ye Law of Nature. Th: 131–134. Puf: Book 2. C. 2. Of that between Parents & Children. Th. 135, 136, 137. Puf: Bk. 2. C. 3. Between Masters & Servants. Th: 138, 139, 140. Puf: Bk. II. C. 4. The Necessity of larger Societys. Th: 14. Puf: Bk. 2. C. 5. The Nature & Constitution of Civil Society in Generall. Th: 142. Puf: Bk. 2, C. 6, secs. 1–6.
Thus far they wrote: Which was all prelected, except the thirteen last theses, which correspond to ye 2nd Book of Pufendorf. And ye Theses which were prelected, abating a few towards ye End, were likewise examin’d, together with ye corresponding places of Pufendorf, in ye order above describ’d. In ye marginall Notes upon Pufendorf, I took Care, among other things, to refer them to ye parallel places of Grotius.
The Afternoons this year likewise, after we had ended ye Ontology, were mostly spent on Mathematicks; in which, after having shortly glanced over ye three Books they had learn’d the Year before, I carry’d them thro’ ye fourth & fifth Books of Pardy & acquainted them with ye rudiments of Algebraicall Computation.
I employ’d some of them in making exegeses on philosophicall Subjects (the rules of which Exercise they had been taught from ye Praxis Logica before mention’d) & ask’d the Censures of ye rest upon them. They likewise gave in & defended a Thesis, on ye subject of their Discourse. The same Discourses were afterwards deliver’d in ye Common Hall.
In the Magistrand Year (if God spare them & me together), ye first work must be to compleat what yet remains undone of ye Ethicks, & then, if possible, again to glance over ye Pneumatick & Ethick Theses: tho’ at the same time, I must endeavour, with all convenient Speed, to get them thro’, at least, ye sixth Book of Pardies Elements, without which they can make verry few Steps to purpose in ye Physicks: I must likewise give them a touche of some other parts of Geometry, as time will allow; but for their more thorow acquaintance with them, refer them to ye Professor of Mathematicks.
I would fain be ready to begin ye Physicks about ye middle of November. I’ll first put Le Clerks Physicks6 in their hands, tho a book that has nothing to recommend it, but that it furnishes occasion to talk about a great many different things. But as ye two great Hinges of Naturall Philosophy, or rather ye constituent parts of it, are Mathematicall Demonstration & Experiment, we must look farther than Le Clerk for both.
For ye Demonstrative part, there’s a Necessity of puting some Text into their Hands but whether it shall be Whistons Praelections7 or ye Notes I dictated to my last Classe, or somewhat else, I’m yet to be resolv’d. Whatever it be, ye Progress they have already made in Geometry & Severall of them in Algebra, & ye Inclination they discover that way, make me presage well of their success in this part of Learning.
As for ye Experimentall part, ye University being now so much better furnish’d than heretofore, it will surely be no presumption to hope that we may be in case to teach Natural Philosophy more effectually than ever it was taught here before. And as I endeavour’d formerly to make ye best Use I could of ye few Instruments we had, so I would now make it my business to forecast, & carefully embrace, every Opportunity of illustrating what I teach by proper Experiments & Observations, so far as time & our apparatus will serve. And for this purpose I designe to draw up a Plan beforehand.8 I propose likewise, especially if desired by ye Society, or by particular Persons, to have ye Dyers for Experiments at known & stated Hours, as mention’d in the Proposall.
This, saving personal or accidentall failures, is ye best Method I can propose for my Classe Teaching. But whether some better way may not be taken for ye Advancement both of Philosophical & Philological Learning than this of Subordinate Classes; & particularly what is to be done, that Students of all Denominations may, without a Diminution of their Character, have access to a fit Professors help in each part of Learning, Deserves ye Facultys most Serious Consideration.
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[1.] In the regenting system, still in place at the University of Glasgow when this report was drafted, “semys,” or the semibaccalaureat year, was the second year of the undergraduate program. The first year was called the “bajan” year, the third year was the baccalaureat year, and the fourth year was the magistrand year. See Coutts, History of the University of Glasgow, p. 178.
[2.] A copy of Carmichael’s annotations on the Ars Cogitandi is housed in the Mitchell Library [City of Glasgow] MS 90.
[3.] Pardie, Elementa geometriae.
[4.] De Vries, De Natura Dei.
[5.] An epitome of his Synopsis Theologiae Naturalis. See above, p. 227.
[6.] Le Clerc, Physica, sive De rebus corporeis.
[7.] Whiston, Arithmetica universalis.
[8.] Carmichael later based his physics classes on the work of the eminent Dutch physicist Willem Jacob ’sGravesande. He wrote to ’sGravesande, 14 October 1721, to express his gratitude for a work that “has been so long desired, in which one may communicate to one’s students the Elements of Mathematical and Experimental Physics in a summary plan of teaching, without an admixture of useless subjects or of dogmas which today one must unlearn.” Letter printed in ’sGravesande, Oeuvres Philosophiques, pp. xxxiii–xxxiv. See also Gori, ’sGravesande, p. 110.