Monday, December 6, 2021

Dante’s Hell and Our Humanity

Dov Lerner at Public Discourse.

'My students and I—orthodox Jews at Yeshiva University—found something more profound than mere gore in Dante’s textual bequest to posterity. His hell provided us something that we could never find in his Purgatory or Paradise. For us, the Inferno’s true contribution was not its penal landscape of scorched sands and steaming pitch. On the contrary, what stirred us most was his evident concern for our humanity.'

See Dante, "On World Government" from De Monarchia in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 7, and The Divine Comedy in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 21, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 19.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Hegel on Thought & World (or 'Logic')

'On G.F.W. Hegel's The Science of Logic (1812–1816), §1–§129 (i.e., the two prefaces and the introduction), plus The Encyclopaedia Logic (1817) §1–§25, which is supposed to dumb it down more so we can understand what's going on.'

Mark Linsenmayer with Wes Dylan, and Amogh Sahu, Episode 134, The Parially Examined Life.

See Hegel, The Philosophy of Right, and The Philosophy of History, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 48, and (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 43.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

In the wrong club

Christopher Bray reviews Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence, by Lee Siegel, at The Spectator.

"Indeed, argues Lee Siegel in his brief biographical study of the most verbal Marx Brother, Groucho’s ‘greatest regret in life … was that he had become an entertainer rather than a literary man’. How else to explain that excruciating evening in June 1964 when Groucho and his wife dined at the home of Mr and Mrs T. S. Eliot and Groucho thought to lecture Eliot on King Lear?"

See works by Eliot, Dante, and Tradition and the Individual Talent, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 5, and The Waste Land, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 1990) volume 60

Friday, December 3, 2021

The Splendid Book Design of the 1946 Edition of Gibbon’s 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

At Open Culture,

"In 1929, the book publisher George Macy founded The Limited Editions Club (LEC), an imprint tasked with publishing finely illustrated limited editions of classic books. In the years to come, Macy worked with artists like Matisse and Picasso, and photographers like Edward Weston, to produce books with artistic illustrations on their inner pages. And sometimes The Limited Editions Club even turned its design focus to other parts of the book. Take for example this 1946 edition of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and its pretty amazing spine design."

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.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Best Thomas Hobbes Books

Arash Abizadeh recommends in an interview by Nigel Warburton at Five Books.

"...Leviathan is actually the third statement of his political philosophy. The first time he wrote down his political philosophy is the Elements of Law—completed in 1640. ... And then, two years later, he rewrote and published his philosophy in Latin for a wider, European audience. That was his De Cive... . Later on, in 1646, he put out a second edition of De Cive with further annotations and a new preface. Then, finally, in Leviathan, he came back to restating his political philosophy in English. So we have three iterations. Some people would argue four—because he then went on later to translate Leviathan into Latin. It’s not just a straightforward translation—there are alterations and amendments, and so on."

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

American Pragmatist: William James and the modern sensibility.

Essay by Algis Valiunas at Claremont Review of Books.

"Most celebrated as the proponent of pragmatism—the Aaron to Charles Sanders Peirce’s Moses—he sought to convince both the experts and the multitude that truth resided not in the rigor of disembodied logic but in the palpable good that issued from a line of thought: the reality that an idea represented lay in its being of 'practical account.'"

See William James, "On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings", "The Energies of Men", "Great Men and Their Environment", in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 7; The Principles of Psychology, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 53, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 55.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Reading Rat - November 2021

Aquinas Leadership International



Selections at the blog Conference Calendar page

Calendar for selected Book discussions groups page

Articles, Essays, Reviews

Book nooks, by Brooke Allen, review of The Library: A Fragile History by Andrew Pettegree & Arthur Der Weduwen, The New Criterion

Miguel De Unamuno, Tragic Sense Of Life - Reason As A Social Product, Sadler's Lectures podcast, by Gregory B. Sadler, SoundCloud

Travel Diaries: Illustrated Accounts of Ken Knabb’s International Trips, 1971-2018, at Bureau of Public Secrets

Santayana and the lessons of history

This "Notes from the Field" feature by Rodney Carlisle, Rutgers University, appeared in The Historian (subscription required), quarterly journal of Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society. In it he wrote,

"For a generation or more, historians and statesmen appeared to agree on one famous aphorism, a quote from the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana (1863–1952), one-time professor at Harvard (1889–1912). The oft quoted phrase was: 'Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.'
"Many historians writing major works during the period from the 1920s into the 1980s (and even later) found it appropriate to quote Santayana’s now famous aphorism, as it articulated the historians’ belief that history was 'relevant' even as times changed.

However, through these decades, no statesman, nor any historian of whom I am aware, actually provided a specific citation to the works of Santayana, making it exceedingly difficult for the reader of a work or the listener to a speech to review what it was that Santayana had said by examining the phrase within the context of the philosopher’s remarks. ..."
My own online searching likewise found no example of the phrase being quoted with its context.

Professor Carlisle tracked down that context to Santayana's The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress (1905–1906), Volume I: Reason in Common Sense, Chapter XII: "Flux and Constancy in Human Nature" online at Project Gutenburg. He then consulted a print edition to find its page numbers. The relevant passage apparently is in a "Sidenote: Continuity necessary to progress" at the end of that chapter, pp. 290-91.

"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted; it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians, in whom instinct has learned nothing from experience. In a second stage men are docile to events, plastic to new habits and suggestions, yet able to graft them on original instincts, which they thus bring to fuller satisfaction. This is the plane of manhood and true progress. Last comes a stage when retentiveness is exhausted and all that happens is at once forgotten; a vain, because unpractical, repetition of the past takes the place of plasticity and fertile readaptation. In a moving world readaptation is the price of longevity. The hard shell, far from protecting the vital principle, condemns it to die down slowly and be gradually chilled; immortality in such a case must have been secured earlier, by giving birth to a generation plastic to the contemporary world and able to retain its lessons. Thus old age is as forgetful as youth, and more incorrigible; it displays the same inattentiveness to conditions; its memory becomes self-repeating and degenerates into an instinctive reaction, like a bird's chirp."
After reading Professor Carlisle's piece, it struck me that while he did an internet search, he did not specifically check Wikiquote. Nor had I. It turns out that the entry for George Santayana includes the quote and indicates its source. As for context, the two preceding sentences are included. That Wikiquote page's revision history pages indicate it has attributed the quote to this volume by Santayana since at least 4 September 2003. It still appears no one repeating the oft-quoted sentence on the internet had provided any citation or put it in context prior to Professor Carlisle's Note.

See Santayana, Lucretius and Goethe's Faust from Three Philosophical Poets, at Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 10.

Monday, November 29, 2021

The Illogic of Contradiction – 'Metaphysics' by Aristotle

Joel Bowman at Classical Wisdom.

"Although the prefix 'meta' actually means 'beyond,' leading many scholars to misinterpret its meaning as the study of what is 'outside of' or 'beyond' nature, Aristotle himself used the term to describe what he saw as the 'first philosophy.' For him, it was physics, then the basic questioning of and about them: metaphysics."

See Aristotle, Works, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volumes 8-9, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volumes 7-8.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Introduction to Milton's 'History of Britain'

Introduction by Thomas H. Luxon, Dartmouth College, to The History of Britain, by John Milton, at The John Milton Reading Room.

"John Milton was not the only English person of his day to lament the lack of a comprehensive and reliable history of Britain. Nicholas von Maltzahn details contemporary notices of that need, and identifies several attempts, other than Milton's, to address it. His 1991 book, Milton's History of Britain: Republican Historiography in the English Revolution, is the most reliable historical and critical treatment of this monumental project. Milton believed that any nation worthy of note deserved to have its history well recorded in elegant prose. What Livy did for Rome, Milton intended to do for his beloved Britain, especially England."

See Milton, "Minor English Poems", Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes, and Areopagitica, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 54 Vol., 1952) volume 32, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 29.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Hippocrates: Pseudepigraphic Writings; [I]n a World of Pagans and Christians;

Review by Lee Pearcy, The Episcopal Academy, of Hippocrates: Pseudepigraphic Writings: Letters-Embassy-Speech from the Altar-Decree, by Wesley D. Smith, and Hippocrates in a World of Pagans and Christians, by Owsei Temkin, at Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

"Smith’s title promises us a philological parergon to his important study of the development of the Hippocratic Corpus (The Hippocratic Question, 1979). Temkin, at first glance, offers a general study of the reputation of Hippocrates in late antiquity, a companion to his Galenism: Rise and Decline of a Medical Philosophy (1973) and a development of his 'Geschichte des Hippokratismus im ausgehenden Altertum' (Kyklos 4:1932, 1-80). Both these first impressions are somewhat misleading."

See Hippocrates, Hippocratic Writings, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 54 Vol., 1952) volume 10, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 9.

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Federalist in the Supreme Court

Charles W. Pierson in the Yale Law Journal.

"From the days of Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth down to the present time [1924] these unofficial newspaper essays have frequently been called upon by the highest tribunal of the nation for help in solving the nation's problems. Yet amid all the editions, translations, commentaries and discussions of disputed questions of authorship, text and bibliography no collection of these Supreme Court citations seems ever to have been attempted until the present writer approached the subject in an introduction to a recent edition. [footnote 1: G. P. Putnam's Sons (1923)] This paper is written in an effort to supply the omission."

See American State Papers, and see The Federalist by Publius (Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay), in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 43, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 40.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving, And Ours:

'How Abraham Lincoln created Thanksgiving.'

Allen C. Guelzo The American Mind.

"November thanksgivings, as local holidays, had been in place for decades before Abraham Lincoln was elected as the sixteenth president in November 1860. ...

"And though Lincoln was descended from the first generation of New Englanders, the back-story of how Thanksgiving became a national holiday has a wider scope than simple genealogy—or even the simple giving of thanks. ..."

See Lincoln, "The Gettysburg Address", Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 6;
We Hold These Truths: Understanding the Ideas and Ideals of the Constitution, by Mortimer J. Adler, p. 194.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Myth of the Classically Educated Elite

Naomi Kanakia at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

"Of course, it’s undeniable that there have been periods of time when the elite placed a high value on being cultured, but there have also been periods when the opposite was true: when paying too much attention to books was considered ungentlemanly. And there’s substantial evidence that the latter periods have tended to predominate, especially in the last 300 years of British and American history.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Albert Einstein and the most elemental atomic theory

Paul Bowersox at Nuclear Newswire.

"The idea of atoms as a shortcut for thinking about how matter worked seemed quite useful even more than a century ago-but then again, so did ideas like a stationary earth at the center of the universe. When Einstein was a young man, atoms had never been observed. Was the idea of atoms actually 'real?' Or was something else, perhaps something unexpected, going on?"
[link fixed -ed.]

See Albert Einstin, "The Rise and Fall of Classical Physics", from The Evolution of Physics (with Leopold Infeld), in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 8; Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 56.

Monday, November 22, 2021

'Calvin: A Biography'

Review by Tony Lane, London School of Theology, of Calvin: A Biography, by Bernard Cottret, at Themelios.

"Cottret’s Calvin is one whose ideas evolved over time, though recognition of this fact is not quite as lacking in previous biographies as the dust jacket suggests. Thus the author emphasises the influence upon Calvin of his time in Strasbourg, commenting that it was there that Calvin became a Calvinist (108)."

See Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 30.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

'Plato's exceptional city, love, and philosopher'

David Riesbeck reviews this book by Nickolas Pappas at the Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

"In this provocative, challenging, and eccentric book, Nickolas Pappas considers the ideal city of the Republic and two more embodied ideals that he calls 'exceptions,' the philosophical lovers of the Symposium and the Phaedrus and the true philosopher of the Theaetetus, Sophist, Statesman, and, somewhat surprisingly, the Ion."

See Plato, Dialogues, and The Seventh Letter, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 7, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 6.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Comedy Divine

Essay by Brad Evans, featuring excerpts from his recently published book, Ecce Humanitas: Beholding the Pain of Humanity, at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

"At the earth’s core, Dante encounters a three-headed Satan encased in ice, appearing as both the tormentor and tormented par excellence. A parody of the beauty of God and the tranquility of Heaven, Satan is disfigured and bestial, the true embodiment of the dark event at the heart of all myths, unable to contain his own rage as he screams out to give Hell itself its most violent of compositions. It should be noted that, in marked departure from such imagery, Milton’s Paradise Lost moved away from a spatial arrangement, with Satan instead proudly boasting of his freedom from the confines of his incarceration: 'The mind is its own place, and in it self / Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.'" [Book I, Lines 254-255]

See Dante, "On World Government" from De Monarchia in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 7, and The Divine Comedy in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 21, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 19.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Read six different versions of the Gettysburg Address

Prepared by the National Constitution Center Staff and posted at Constitution Daily.

"There were five versions of the Gettysburg Address that were acknowledged by Abraham Lincoln in his lifetime. Here are those versions, along with the AP wire copy from November 1863.

"Key differences among the first four versions are in bold face type."

See Lincoln, "The Gettysburg Address", Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 6;
We Hold These Truths: Understanding the Ideas and Ideals of the Constitution, by Mortimer J. Adler, p. 194.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

'our era’s most consequential jurist'

'adapted from a speech delivered on September 17, 2019, at Hillsdale College’s Constitution Day Celebration in Washington, D.C.', by Myron Magnet, author of Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution' at Imprimis.

"If the Framers had wanted a constitution that evolved by judicial ruling, [U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence] Thomas says, they could have stuck with the unwritten British constitution that governed the American colonists in just that way for 150 years before the Revolution. But Americans chose a written constitution, whose meaning, as the Framers and the state ratifying conventions understood it, does not change..."
[link added -ed.]

See American State Papers in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 43, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 40.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Might Burke also have been a radical?

Greg Weiner reviews Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke’s Political Economy, by Gregory M. Collins, at The Independent Review.

"in this penetrating and important new study, Gregory Collins forces the question of what he calls 'Das Edmund Burke problem': Can the conservatism of Burke’s politics be reconciled with the disruptive implications of his political economy?"

See Edmund Burke, "Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol", Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) (10 Vol., 1963) volume 7