Coleridge- On the uneducated and method

For the absence of Method, which characterizes the uneducated…

Samuel Coleridge


To begin, I want to reflect on  a definition of Method that was given.  Method, as Coleridge talks about it, is “the process or way things are done to think and therefore compose.”

Now, I am going to tell a quick story.  Last semester, I went to the writing center at the university I go to in order to work on a paper.  In the middle of the tutorial, the consultant turned to me and said, “I love the rhetorical strategies that you are using.”  I was taken aback because when I was writing the paper, I did not think at all about any rhetorical strategies.  I just wrote.  From that experience, I learned that people can apparently use rhetorical strategies without even consciously realizing it.

Now, without further ado, I bring these two thoughts together with the quote.  Why are we characterizing the uneducated as the absence of method?  Is it possible that, just like me with rhetorical strategies last semester, that uneducated people do, indeed practice method and not realize it?

If this is the case, then I could reach an understanding with what Coleridge is saying in the form of history.  In Aristotle’s time, there was a group called the Sophists who went from town to town in Greece and taught people how to use rhetorical strategies in order to not be found guilty in a trial.  Aristotle and Plato, believing in the dialectic (searching for the truth), took issue with the sophists because they just taught the people how to use it without teaching the people how to find the truth in it.

If Coleridge is saying that the method must be consciously used, then I can understand it to some extent.  I disagree, but I can understand it.  I disagree because even if they are subconsciously using the method, then they are using it.  Therefore, we cannot characterize the “uneducated” as not using the method when they do actually use it regardless of whether it is subconscious or not.

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