Monday, February 02, 2009

The Churchill Series - Feb. 2, 2009

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

It is 1896, the fifty-ninth year of Victoria’s reign. Twenty-one year old Lieutenant Churchill is serving with his regiment in Bangalore, India. His intellectual curiosity, mostly dormant during his student days, is now suddenly active and intense. He’s seeking to learn all he can about the people and ideas that form our Western heritage.

My Early Life, an autobiography of his first twenty-seven years which Churchill wrote when in his fifties, he looks back to that time in Bangalore; and tells us about something the young lieutenant discovered as he opened his mind to inquiry and reflection:

Then someone had used the phrase “the Socratic method.”

What was that?

It was apparently a way of giving your friend his head in an argument and progging him into a pit by cunning questions.

Who was Socrates, anyhow?

A very argumentative Greek who had a nagging wife and was finally compelled to commit suicide because he was a nuisance!

Still, he was beyond doubt a considerable person. He counted for a lot in the minds of learned people.

I wanted “the Socrates story.” Why had his fame lasted through all the ages? What were the stresses which had led a government to put him to death merely because of the things he said?

Dire stresses they must have been: the life of the Athenian Executive or the life of this talkative professor! Such antagonisms do not spring from petty issues.

Evidently Socrates had called something into being long ago which was very explosive. Intellectual dynamite! A moral bomb!

But there was nothing about it in The Queen’s Regulations.
In February 1901 Churchill for the first time took his seat in the House of Commons. Except for a few years when he was voted out, he remained a member until shortly before his death in January 1965. He called himself “a child of the House of Commons.”

In Commons, after a bill is introduced, when the members rise to debate the bill, they do so in the form of asking "questions" of each other.

We recognize such proceedings as the method of that "very argumentative Greek” the young Churchill first met in Bangalore.

Winston Churchill,
My Early Life. (pgs. 107-111)