Saturday, January 16, 2021

Our Machiavellian Moment

Camila Vergara reviews Machiavelli: The Art of Teaching the People What to Fear, by Patrick Boucheron, translated by Willard Wood, at the Boston Review.

"historian Patrick Boucheron reminds us that there is always interest in Machiavelli in turbulent times [because he’s the man to philosophize in heavy weather. If we’re reading him today, it means we should be worried. He’s back: wake up.'"

See Machiavelli, The Prince, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 23, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 21.

Friday, January 15, 2021

A Certain Freedom

Frank Freeman reviewed Chicago Renaissance: Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis by Liesl Olson in the 'Books in Little' feature of The University Bookman.
'''If you’ve ever wondered—and who hasn’t?—about what would happen if Mortimer Adler and Gertrude Stein met and talked about the concept of Great Books, then there is a scene in Chicago Renaissance for you. It occurred on November 27, 1934, in the Chicago home of Robert Hutchins who, along with Adler, had created and was developing the Great Books curriculum. Liesl Olson, director of Chicago Studies at the Newberry Library, writes:
"According to Adler, Stein was 'infuriated' by the idea that Great Books were read in translation: 'She said that great literature was essentially untranslatable.' Adler describes how he and Hutchins 'tried to argue with her, pointing out that we were concerned mainly with the ideas which were to be found in the Great Books. She might be right, we admitted, that fine writing suffers in translation, but ideas somehow transcended the particular language in which they were first expressed.' … Stein was stalwart and unconvinced. Hutchins then challenged Stein to teach their Great Books class the following week. As Stein writes: 'I said of course I will and then Adler said something and I was standing next to him and violently telling him and everybody was excited and the maid came and said Madame the police. Adler went a little white and we all stopped and then burst out laughing.'"
'''They could laugh because the police were there to take Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, on a night tour of the city, the night, it so happened, when 'Baby Face' Nelson was shot and killed in the Chicago suburbs.'''

Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Philosophy of Fear--and Society of Scolds

Essay on Thomsas Hobbes, by Daniel McCarthy in Modern Age.

"Civilization and all its comforts are unobtainable, in Hobbes’s account, as long as the fear of losing everything, at any moment, to violent seizure forestalls the effort to create anything valuable and lasting. The absence of civilization’s benefits, as much or more than the presence of violence itself, is the cause of man’s misery in this telling. Fear is even worse than fighting—as the Athenians and Spartans alike recognized in another context."

See Hobbes, Leviathan, at Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 23, Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 21.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Pandemic prediction from Lucretius

'How being afraid of death is making some people less ethical'. Thomas Nail at IAI News.

"As early as the first century BC, Roman philosopher Lucretius predicted that humanity’s fear of death could drive us to irrational beliefs and actions that would harm society. And as COVID-19 sweeps across the globe, three of his key predictions are coming true."

See Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 12, and (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 11.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Rousseau and the Republicanization of Money

Oliver Weber at JHI Blog.

"From antiquity until well into the 19th century, European and North American political philosophy revolved around questions of state financing, debt, property, and money. In other words, the relationship between economics and politics was at the heart of the theoretical debate."

See Rousseau, A Lasting Peace through the Federation of Europe, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 7; On the Origin of Inequality, On Political Economy, The Social Contract, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 38, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 35.

Monday, January 11, 2021

What is the purpose of universities?

Nicole Yeatman at Big Think.

"'Telos is the Greek word that Aristotle and others use to define the end or purpose of something,' Jonathan Haidt, professor at New York University Stern School of Business and bestselling coauthor of The Coddling of the American Mind, says in a recorded lecture at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. The telos of a knife is to cut. What, Haidt asks, is the telos of a university?"

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Can We Deduce Our Way to Salvation?

'A new book suggests that modern readers can still follow the path of reason that Spinoza traced to true well-being, but they might not want to.' Carlos Fraenkel reviews Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die, by Steven Nadler, at Boston Review.

"In a new book on Spinoza’s ethics, Steven Nadler argues that Spinoza 'fits well in this broad eudaimonistic tradition.'"

See Spinoza, Ethics, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 31, and (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 28.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Fyodor Dostoevsky: philosopher of freedom

Gary Saul Morson, 'On the political and moral lessons of Fyodor Dostoevsky', at The New Criterion.

"Humanness, as opposed to formicness, requires not just product but process. Effort has value only when it can fail, while choices matter only if the world is vulnerable and depends in part on our doing one thing rather than another. Ants do not make choices."

See Dostoevsky, "White Nights", Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 3, The Brothers Karamazov, Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 52, Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 52.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Race and Social Panic at Haverford

Race and Social Panic at Haverford: A Case Study in Educational Dysfunction, by Jonathan Kay, at Quillette.

"It’s a long story, but also an important one, as the mania that swept Haverford College in late October and early November 2020 lays bare, with unusual clarity, the fervid atmosphere of grievance and self-entitlement that has made the administration of elite colleges and universities so difficult."

Thursday, January 7, 2021

14 Evident Truths from the Organizational Genius of St. Thomas Aquinas

"14 Evident Truths from the Organizational Genius of St. Thomas Aquinas: How 'Born Again Thomism' Can Help Save the West from Cultural Suicide", by Peter A. Redpath, at Studia Gilsoniana.


"This paper is written to articulate in a summary form 14 evidently-known essential and personalistic principles from the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas needed, especially by Pope Francis, to understand a third period of neo-Thomism we are now in: Born-again, or Ragamuffin, Thomism. It maintains that, without application of these principles to the Church’s 'new evangelization,' this movement will fail. With that failure the Church will be unable to halt the cultural suicide in which the West is presently engaged."

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volumes 19-20, and Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volumes 17-18.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Two Legs Bad

Martin Tyrrell reviewed Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy, by John Rodden, at the Dublin Review of Books.

"Rodden gives a good account of the sudden and unexpected rise of Orwell’s reputation following the publication of Animal Farm in 1945. Initially, and widely, rejected on political grounds ‑ Russia was an ally in a war that was still ongoing ‑ Orwell’s bitter allegory of Soviet communism would have its day only when the war was safely won."

See Orwell, Animal Farm, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 60.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Natural Law for a Lawless People

Adam J. MacLeod reviews Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law, by Kody Cooper, at Public Discourse.

"Tyranny has no attraction when compared with the rule of law. But when everyone does what is right in his own eyes, tyranny often appears more attractive than anarchy. And it seems more morally justified. Life and peace are worth preserving. If a strong sovereign is necessary to preserve them, people may conclude that a strong sovereign is called for.

"This is a natural law argument for lawless people. It’s not new, of course. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes expressed it powerfully during the chaotic and frequently lawless seventeenth century. A recent book by Kody Cooper, Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law, offers a sympathetic interpretation of Hobbes’s works. He makes what is perhaps the strongest possible case that Hobbes was a natural lawyer, like Cicero and Aquinas, whose theory of legal and political power is ultimately grounded in the common good. Though the argument for relocating Hobbes among natural law theorists fails (not for lack of capable effort by Cooper), the book helps clarify why many people find the case for a leviathan persuasive."

See Hobbes, Leviathan, at Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 23, Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 21.

Monday, January 4, 2021

On the charts 'til 1453

Iggy Pop, "Caesar Lives," Classics Ireland, vol. 2 (1995) : 94-6.

See Gibbon, Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volumes 40-41, Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volumes 37-38.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Freddoso on 'The Vindication of St. Thomas'

The Vindication of St. Thomas: Thomism and Contemporary Anglo-American Philosophy, by Alfred J. Freddoso, University of Notre Dame.

"Abstract: Fifty years after the overthrow of St. Thomas and Thomistic Scholasticism in Catholic intellectual life in general and in Catholic philosophy and theology in particular, we are now witnessing a revival of Aristotelianism and Thomism in a place where one would have least anticipated it, mainstream Anglo-American analytic philosophy. This phenomenon has been relatively well-documented in the case of moral theory, but is less well known in two areas that from a Thomistic standpoint are more fundamental than moral theory, viz., philosophy of nature and philosophical anthropology. In my presentation, after highlighting certain consequences of the overthrow of Thomism, I will discuss this revival, along with some cognate developments within recent Catholic theology, with an eye toward giving some direction to the new generation of Catholic philosophers and theologians."
See Summa Theologica in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volumes 19-20, and Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volumes 17-18

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Austen’s Catholic Landscapes

Robert Grano reviewed Jane Austen and the Reformation: Remembering the Sacred Landscape, by Roger E. Moore, in the Books In Little feature at The University Bookman.

"...Roger E. Moore expands upon Butler’s thesis [Marilyn Butler in Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (1975)], primarily in connection with Austen’s understanding of the effect of the Reformation on the English landscape, both physical and spiritual.

See Austen, Emma, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 46.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Under Cover of Darkness

Jack Trotter on 'The fall of a monument to states' rights', at Chronicles.

"Calhoun’s Disquisition is a dense and brilliantly argued thesis on the foundations of constitutional government. Slavery is mentioned in passing only once. At its heart is the view that if we locate the voice of the people only in numerical majorities, we are already well down the road to tyranny. Thus, he offered the concept of the 'concurrent majority'—that is, a majority achieved through the conflict of interests between the various parts of the national community. Such a majority would not result in perfect harmony, but in a reasonable compromise, in which the interests of all the conflicting parties are truly represented. Calhoun made no attempt to disguise the reality of power. 'Power,' he wrote, 'can only be resisted by power.' And the vehicle of that resistance can only be sovereign states."

See Calhoun, "The Concurrent Majority" from A Disquisition on Goverment, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 7

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Reading Rat - December 2020

Articles, Essays, Reviews

Do You Remember Milwaukee’s Iconic Schuster’s Parade? by John Gurda, Milwaukee Magazine

"Burn my heart with a flame": The Sacred Passions of Isobella Leonarda, by Tim Sterner Miller, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, video at Early Music Now, includes excerpts from a performance by the New Milwaukee Consort

Quiet Policy Changes in Wisconsin as a Result of COVID-19: A Deeper Look into the Pandemic Response, by Rebecca R. Hogan and Paige Scobee, The Hamilton Consulting Group, Wisconsin Civil Trial Journal, Wisconsin Defense Counsel

Telehealth changes are working and should be made permanent, by Julie Grace, Policy Brief, Badger Institute

Trump v. Biden, 2020 WI 91, Wisconsin Supreme Court, opinion

Podcasting Process, by Malcolm Keating, sabda-bodhah

Biden Won Wisconsin, but It Was Even Closer Than Reporte, by Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review

What if you could wander the library stacks…online? by Wendy Hanamura, and Looking Back on 2020, by Jenica Jessen, Internet Archive


Christmas program of sacred and secular music of the Renaissance and Baroque, by ViolMedium, Early Music Now

Florida’s bipartisan corrections data law: A model for Wisconsin, by Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Right on Crime-Florida Director Chelsea Murphy, presented by the Badger Institute, January 7, 2021 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM CST, registration (via link) required

Aquinas Leadership International December 2020 Update

This is a selection based on items from the Aquinas School of Leadership, provided to us by Dr. Peter A. Redpath. More recent announcements are posted here.

Selected upcoming events are posted in the "Conference Calendar" in this blog's sidebar.

Selected items from recent news are listed below.

If you have information you would like considered for publication in a later update, submit it to Dr. Redpaht at

  • Jude P. Dougherty died December 8, 2020. She is survived by her husband of 62 years, Jude P. Dougherty, their sons and their spouses, and ten grandchilcre. Further information is in her obituary
  • Dr. William McVey will be teaching Thomistic Exemplar Organizational Leadership through Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Details can be found in the Syllabus.
  • An orientation course for the Aquinas School of Leadership's Commonsense Wisdom Executive Coaching Academy (CWECA) will start on 18 January 2021. It will be offered at no cost to anyone who has already contacted Peter A. Redpath before that date to discuss the possibility of developing a syllabus for offering a course or several syllabi for offering a program as an educational consultant within CWECA. CWECA classes are presently projected to start in September 2021. If you would like to offer a course and/or program within CWECA, email Peter Redpath at
  • Pace University Press has announced the release of the fifth volume of its annual journal Lex Naturalis – A Journal of Natural Law. Details here.
  • Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J. has an important message about Cardinal Pell, available here.
  • Catholic World Report interviewed Fr. Peter Stravinskas about a New graduate program for Catholic school administrators.
  • Hillsdale College provided information on its free online courses.
  • Acton Institute's is offering mini-grants for research and teaching in free market economics.
  • The Angelicum Academy is offering four courses in Theology Online with Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., Th.D.
  • A flexible, classical, Thomistic, and semiotic approach to continuing and continual digital education is offered by The Lyceum Institute.
  • Ignatius Press announces daily snippets of Catholic wisdom. Get these every morning from literary giants, beloved saints, and relevant voices from today. Read them in 60 seconds, live it out the rest of the day. Plus enjoy exclusive discounts on the products Ignatius Press feature every day! To start receiving these every day, go to Daily Catholic Wisdom.
  • Christian Miller, Editor of The Journal of Moral Philosophy, announces that he looking for reviewers for recently published books dating from 2017 to present; anyone interested in writing a review should email him at

Reading and online discussion of Kafka's 'Metamorphosis', then Plato's 'Sophist'

The Great Conversation Reading Group hosts monthly discussion of works using a Ten Year Reading Plan combined from those in both editions of Great Books of the Western World.

The upcoming month's discussion and following month's reading are:

January 2021, Franz Kafka, "The Metamorphosis", see Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 60
February 2021, Plato, The Sophist, see Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 7, Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 6.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

L'Affaire Voltaire

Ephraim Radner at First Things.
"The 'public intellectual,' in Voltaire’s modern arena, aims for effect, not truth. We live still in this theater, built upon the ruins of Lisbon."
See Voltaire, Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 9; Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 34.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Welter on Torrell's 'Saint Thomas en plus simple'

Brian Welter reviews this book by Jean-Pierre Torrell at Studia Gilsonaina.

See Summa Theologica in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volumes 19-20, and Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volumes 17-18

Monday, December 28, 2020

Adler on 'Great Books of the Western World'

Mortimer Adler, Chairman for the Board of Editors, presented this speech to the National Press Club on October 30, 1990.
"Philosopher Mortimer Adler talked about the history and significance of the Great Books of the Western World college courses and adult education programs. He said that in 1921 John Erskine introduced the first Great Books course at Columbia University. Later Professor Adler introduced the Great Books to University of Chicago Law School President Robert Maynard Hutchins, and they taught the Great Books course together. Other topics included the criticism of the Great Books programs, beginning in 1988, as too Eurocentric and lacking women and minority authors. After his presentation Professor Adler answered audience members' questions."
C-SPAN Video Library.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Inventing the authority of a modern self

Daniel J. Mahoney reviews Montaigne: Life without Law, by Pierre Manent, at The New Criterion.

"His Essays, written, published, and revised between 1570 and 1592, demonstrate that he genuinely admired Socrates and the Roman hero Cato. But Montaigne rather shockingly claims to have learned nothing fundamental from them, and he has no interest whatsoever in imitating their greatness. Nonetheless, there is something enticing about Montaigne’s turn to the authority of the self in place of the classical Christian demand to put order in one’s soul in light of the requirements of the Good itself."
See Montaigne, Essays, at Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 25, and Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 23.