Saturday, July 31, 2021

On Demons

Sam Kriss reviews Demons: A Novel in Three Parts by Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, at First Things.

"...a film, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 La Chinoise...

"... is a loose adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1871 novel Besy, variously translated Demons, Devils, or The Possessed."

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

Friday, July 30, 2021

Purgatory and paradise with a wild prophet

'Frances Wilson’s book is as magnificently flawed as its subject – and a work of art in its own right'

Rachel Cooke reviewed Burning Man: The Ascent of DH Lawrence, by Frances Wilson, at The Guardian.

"In her new biography, Frances Wilson, who has been quietly in thrall to the novelist since she was a student, does not grill him lightly over charcoal; not for her the righteous disgust of Kate Millett, whose feminist attack on the author in Sexual Politics in 1970 more or less did for him, at least in our universities (a cancellation avant la lettre). Nevertheless, her book is a highly flammable thing."

See D. H. Lawrence, "The Rocking-Horse Winner" in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 3, and "The Prussian Officer" in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 60.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Great Books podcast: 'The Nicomachean Ethics' by Aristotle

'John J. Miller is joined by Lorraine Smith Pangle of the University of Texas at Austin to discuss Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics'

The Great Books podcast, Episode 182, at National Review.

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

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Milton Mayer on Mortimer Adler and Gertrude Stein

Preferred Citation: Mayer, Milton. Robert Maynard Hutchins: A Memoir. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1993 1993. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft4w10061d

Part Three, Ch. 11, pp. 109-09

On one immortal occasion—immortalized by, among others, Gertrude Stein—Hutchins invited Gertrude and Alice B. Toklas to dinner at the president's house at Chicago. Gertrude's version of her encounter with Mert (whom Hutchins had also invited with deviltry prepense) is recorded in her Everybody's Autobiography . It begins with her asking Hutchins what ideas are important and Hutchins' handing her a list of the books he and Adler were teaching in their honors course. She observes that none of them was originally written in English, and Hutchins (according to her) replies that there have been no ideas expressed in English. She replies that she gathers that in his view there are no ideas that are not sociological or governmental, and he says, "Well, are there?"

"Well yes I said. Government is the least interesting thing in human life, creation and the expression of that creation is a damn sight more interesting, yes I know and I began to get excited yes I know, naturally you are teachers and teaching is your occupation and naturally what you call ideas are easy to teach and so you are convinced that they are the only ideas but the real ideas are not the relation of human beings as groups but a human being to himself inside him and that is an idea that is more interesting than humanity in groups, after all the minute that there are a lot of them they do not do it for themselves but somebody does it for them and that is a darn sight less interesting. Then Adler began and I have forgotten what the detail of it was but we were saying violent things to each other and I was telling him that anybody could tell by looking at him that he was a man who would be singularly unsusceptible to ideas that are created within oneself that he would take to either inside or outside regulation but not to creation, and Hutchins was saying well if you can improve upon what we are doing I challenge you to do it take our class next week and 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. Fanny Butcher had arranged that Alice Toklas and I should go off that evening in the homicidal squad and they had come and there they were waiting. Well we said good-night and we went off with the policemen."[2]

All of Gertrude Stein's versions are unauthorized versions—as she herself would have been quick to say. There is another unauthorized, but widely attested, version (by the other dinner guests) of her "standing next to him and violently telling him and everybody was excited." This version has it that the violence was beyond telling, with the excited poet hitting the excited prosist on the head with her fist (she was taller enough than he to do it) and saying, "Young man, you like to win arguments. I won't argue with you any more. You fail to hold my attention."

2. Gertrude Stein, Everybody's Autobiography (New York: Random House, 1937), pp. 205-7

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Reorientations of Edward Said

'Steeped in Western culture, the great critic of Western narratives came to his post-colonialist convictions gradually but with growing intensity.'

Pankaj Mishra reviews Places of Mind, an authorized biography by Timothy Brennan, in The New Yorker.

"Perhaps against Said’s own wishes, Orientalism ended up describing an eternal and unbridgeable gulf between Western and non-Western societies. While discrediting much knowledge produced in Europe and America over two millennia, the book displayed no awareness of the vast archive of Asian, African, and Latin-American thought that had preceded it, including discourses devised by non-Western √©lites—such as the Brahminical theory of caste in India—to make their dominance seem natural and legitimate. Unsurprisingly, upper-caste ideologues of Hindu supremacism approvingly cite Orientalism when railing against Western scholars of Indian religion and history. The book’s critique of Eurocentrism was in fact curiously Eurocentric, and its vision of an internally consistent and coherent 'West' had much in common with the 'Plato-to-nato' genealogy of the free world popularized during the Cold War. In both narratives, the ancient Greeks, Renaissance Italians, and French sages of the Enlightenment had all contributed to the making of 'Western Civilization.'"

Monday, July 26, 2021

Madison’s "Memorial and Remonstrance": A Jewel of Republican Rhetoric

Eva Brann, St. John's College, at The Imaginative Conservative.

"In part, again, Madison’s work has been kept off the roster of canonized public prose because it lacks Jefferson’s heady generalities and Lincoln’s humane grandeur. But I know this: To study it is to come away with a sense of having discovered, under the veil of Madison’s modesty, the great rhetorician of the Founding, whom John Marshall called 'the most eloquent man I ever heard.'"

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, and (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 40.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Reading Hegel Right

Review by Grant Havers, chair of the Department of Philosophy at Trinity Western University, of Leo Strauss on Hegel, edited by Paul Franco, at Modern Age.

"The reasons Christianity triumphed over the paganism of Greco-Roman antiquity and the religions of the East preoccupied Hegel to the end of his life. In the Lectures on the Philosophy of History, delivered at the University of Berlin in the 1820s, Hegel outlined how Christianity actualized an idea of human freedom that was inconceivable to pagan civilizations: 'Eastern nations knew only that one is free; the Greek and Roman world only that some are free; while we [Christians] know that all men absolutely ... are free.'

"One implication of Hegel’s theory of history is that no return to paganism is possible, however much we might admire aspects of the ancient world. Philosophers who seek a return to antiquity must address the challenge of Hegel."

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, July 24, 2021

We aren’t getting the liberal arts education we expected

'Vanderbilt is certainly not giving students the multidisciplinary education or the critical thinking skills necessary to create solutions for real world problems.'

Opinion by undergraduates Nora Fellas and Induja Kumar in the Vanderbilt Hustler.

"Even though they are not in pre-professional programs like H.O.D. [Human and Organizational Development] or engineering, students in the College of Arts and Science still end up being pushed into the groups of pre-med or pre-law. Students who haven’t planned out the rest of their lives are sidelined by career coaches and CASPAR [the College of Arts and Science's Pre-major Academic Advising Resources office] advisors alike. Thus, students who want a broad education, and to explore all areas of a liberal arts curriculum, are disadvantaged. Consequently, Vanderbilt is neither living up to its own reputation as a liberal arts institution nor meeting the standards set by its peer institutions. It certainly is not giving students the multidisciplinary education or the critical thinking skills necessary to create solutions for real world problems."
[A touch of acrimony, maybe, but surely justifiable in regard to the acronymy. -ed.]

Friday, July 23, 2021

The New Politics of Higher Education

'Why the left’s turn from higher education has coincided with a newfound conservative appreciation for it.'

Marshll Steinbaum at Boston Review.

"it was Ronald Reagan’s education secretary, William Bennett, who hypothesized that tuition rose because of increasing federal student aid—casting universities as villains that feed off both taxpayers and their own students. ...

"...Following years of austerity budgets and the systematic deprofessionalization of academic labor, millennials and their generational successors have found it harder and harder to get faculty positions. As for students, a college degree of some sort has become a near-universal standard for younger cohorts entering an increasingly credentialized labor market. For them, the university has meant neither an enriching intellectual experience that sets them on a path of humanistic, lifelong inquiry nor a path to middle-class economic stability, but rather escalating tuition for degrees of questionable value that sets them on a path of crushing, lifelong debt. Once popular on the right, the Bennett hypothesis is likely to find more and more of its adherents on the left."

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Books That Last Forever: Erasmus

'The "learned piety" of Desiderius Erasmus, the greatest figure of northern humanism.'

Peter Adamson, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and King's College London, Episode 376 of the History of Philosophy without any gaps.

See Erasmus, The Praise of Folly, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 23.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Courage Nailed Down: Plato’s 'Laches'

Eva Brann, St. John's College, at The Imaginative Conservative.

"When the get-together breaks up, Lysimachus, one of the two undistinguished fathers who have sought the generals’ opinion concerning the best care to be given their adolescent sons’ upbringing, invites Socrates to come by his house next morning to teach them and their boys. Socrates says, 'I will do so, Lysimachus, and will come to you tomorrow morning, if God wishes' (201c, my italics).

"Will he go? Will his inner divinity let him? I don’t think so."

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.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Is Kafka's Metamorphosis Good?

'Richard Dawkins Opens A Can Of Worms: A Converstion on Twitter'

Gregory B. Sadler recaps at YouTube.

See Kafka, "The Metamorphosis", in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 60.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Key Philosophical Texts (in the Western Canon)

Interview by Sophie Roell of Nigel Warburton at Five Books.

"Even if you've never studied philosophy, it's nice to be able to read a few books and get a sense of what it's all about. Here, we asked our philosophy editor, Nigel Warburton, to talk us through five key works of Western philosophy—many of them in the public domain and available for free as ebooks—and explain why, despite one or two odd conclusions or quirky writing styles, they've played such an important role in expanding our understanding of the world."

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.

See Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, Meditations on First Philosophy, Objections Against the Meditations, and Replies, and The Geometry, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 31, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 28.

See Hume, "On the Standard of Taste" from Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, in volume 5, and "Of Refinement in the Arts", "Of Money", "Of the Balance of Trade", "Of Taxes", and "Of the Study of History", from Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, in volume 7, Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963); and An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volumen 35, and (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 33.

See John Stuart Mill, "Childhood and Youth" from Autobiography, in volume 6, and "Nature" from Three Essays on Religion, in volume 10, of Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963); and On Liberty, Representative Government, and Utilitarianism, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 43, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 40.

See Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 55.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Dante and the Face of Geryon

Glenn Arbery, Wyoming Catholic College, on the Divine Comedy at The Imaginative Conservative.

"Not only does the Commedia take up and transform the classical heritage, giving a structural framework to the Christian imagination, but the dense embeddedness of its characters in historical time and place fills the pages with particular men and women, bad and good, whose situations in the thick of life most resemble our own. Reading the Commedia, generation after generation, helps sustain what is good in our civilization as it exposes whatever is false and cheap."

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.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Book of Numbers

Fernando Q. Gouvea, Colby College, reviewed Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio at First Things.

"Mathematics does seem to evoke a feeling of timelessness and certainty. We may not formulate geometry exactly as Euclid did, but none of Euclid’s theorems is now considered false. The proofs given by Apollonius and Archimedes still work as proofs for us, and the theorems they prove are, we say, true, not just agreed upon or universally accepted."

See Apollonius of Perga, Conics, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 11.

See Archimedes, Works, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 11, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 10.

See Euclid, Elements, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 11, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 10.

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Tocqueville Option, Complexity, and Free Markets

Michael Matheson Miller of the Acton Institute discusses Alexis de Tocqueville and the conservative relationship with free markets.

Conservative Conversations podcast, Episode 12, hosted by James Davenport, Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

See Tocqueville, "Observations on American Life and Government" from Democracy in America, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volumen 6, and Democracy in America, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 44.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Virgil. 'The Aeneid': a new verse translation

John Godwin reviews a recent translation by Len Krisak at the Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

"Importing rhyme-schemes (which were of course not part of the Latin original) imposes massive demands on the translator and few have even tried: Alice Stallings used rhyming fourteen-syllable couplets for her Lucretius (and five-beat rhyming couplets for her version of Hesiod’s Works and Days), while James Falen’s 1990 verse translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin and David Luke’s translation of Goethe’s Faust both manage to reproduce the metre and rhyme scheme of the original. This is a risky game to play: too little adherence to formal features makes the verse read like prose, while too much makes it sound stilted. Krisak may now be added to the short list of people who have trodden this tightrope without falling off on either side."

See Virgil, Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 13, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 12.

[post corrected and updated -ed.]

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Panoramic Look at the Prolific F. Scott Fitzgerald

Merle Rubin reviewed The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli (Scribners 1989) at The Christian Science Monitor.

"The decision to arrange them [the stories] chronologically (Cowley's arrangement [in The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1951)] was thematic) highlights Fitzgerald's increasing ability to probe the depths of seemingly superficial people, whether it's the dawning self-awareness of the young couple in One Trip Abroad, or the unexpected resourcefulness of the charming, nouveau riche Fifi Schwartz in The Hotel Child."
[I've noted that the various Fitzgerald anthologies, when offered for sale online, sometimes confuse identifications, notably cover images. -ed.]

See Fitzgerald, "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" from Tales of the Jazz Age in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 3, and The Great Gatsby in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 60.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Liberal Arts

Brian Kemple in the Synechist blog at Continuum Philosophical Insight.

"There is a fruitful distinction suggested by the phrase 'Liberal Education', as comprising those subjects not in themselves arts—as philosophy or literature, for instance—but which nevertheless contribute to the freedom of the mind. That is, though we are here enveloped in a study of the liberal arts, our ultimate goal is for a liberal education—towards which the arts are innately ordered."

Monday, July 12, 2021

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

'John J. Miller is joined by Jessica Hooten Wilson of the University of Dallas to discuss Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment'

The Great Books, Episode 186, at National Review.

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

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The best books on Peace

'Efforts to bring about peace have often focused on eliminating the conditions of war, violence and terrorism. But as Steve Killelea—founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace and the annual Global Peace Index—explains, the foundations of sustainable peace are radically different from the absence of war and violence. Here, he recommends five books that shed light on the building blocks of peace and explains why "positive peace" is so important.'

Interview by Benedict King at Five Books.

"War and Peace was groundbreaking in its age, because up until then, war had always been something that was glorified; he looked at war through the psychology of the people experiencing it, and the way they expressed that experience in their lives. That was a profound breakthrough. For instance, he shows people suffering from post-traumatic stress."

See Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilytch, "The Three Hermits", and "What Men Live By", in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 3, and War and Peace, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 51, and (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 51.