Friday, June 18, 2021

The Spirit of the Laws Book Group Discussion

That is,

"The Great Books Reading and Discussion Program group met to discuss 'Principles of Government,' an excerpt from Baron de Montesquieu’s most influential book The Spirit of the Laws published anonymously in 1748. Montesquieu was a French Enlightenment thinker who is credited with first expressing the theory of the separation of powers, the foundation of the U.S. Constitution. Other discussion topics included natural law, monarchy, virtue, slavery, revolutions, and democracy."
at BookTV on C-SPAN 2

See Montesquieu, Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 38, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 35.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Points & Lines:

A reinterpretation into comics of Book 1 of Euclid's Elements, by Eli Parra, at ELZR

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Five of the Best European Classics

'Europe may be made up of many cultures but its component parts share an artistic and literary sensibility, says Everyman's Library publisher David Campbell. Here, he recommends five European classics that everyone should read at least once in their life, including "the greatest novel ever written" and some lesser-known masterpieces.'

Interview by Cal Flyn at Five Books.

"I quite often read the Pleiade edition [of Tolstoy's War and Peace], but I’m reading the new Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky edition—which is fascinating—the first three or four pages are in French. In the Louise and Aylmer Maude edition, which I publish at Everyman, it’s all of course in English, but Richard and Larissa have kept Tolstoy’s French, which is quite interesting."

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.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

10 Ancient Books That Influenced Stoicism

Bradley J. Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative.

Among authors cited are the following.

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

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

See Augustine, The Confessions, The City of God, and On Christian Doctrine, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 18, and (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 16.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Best Books on the Periodic Table

Interview by Sophie Roell at Five Books.

"The periodic table of the elements has been described as 'one of the great intellectual achievements of humankind'. Here, Noelle Eckley Selin of MIT and Henrik Selin of Boston University talk us through some of their favourite books about various chemical elements and explain why they're vital to understanding the world around us."

See Mendeleev, "The Genesis of a Law of Nature", from The Periodic Table of Elements, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 8

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Prometheus bound: a separate authorial trace in the Aeschylean corpus

Book by Nikos Manousakis reviewed by Peter Barrios-Lech, University of Massachusetts Boston, at Bryn Mawr Classical Review. [link added -ed.]

"Manousakis, with the help of a variety of computer-aided calculations, shows that Aeschylean authorship of Prometheus Bound is very highly unlikely. Mark Griffith had already made the case against Aeschylean authorship, and after the publication of Griffith’s book in 1977 (The Authenticity of the Prometheus Bound), the burden of proof was now with those—few in number to be sure—who would argue that Aeschylus wrote Pr. ...A subsidiary argument for the dating of the Prometheus Bound to the decade 440-430 BCE convinces, though cannot be conclusive."

See Aeschylus, Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 5, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 4.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Is Economics a Liberal Art?

Alexander William Salter at National Review.

"If a liberal worldview is the product of a liberal education, then showing economics belongs with the humane disciplines, for the same reasons that these disciplines are essential for a liberal education, also shows economics is an indispensable component of such a worldview. This is an intriguing possibility. But it comes with serious difficulties. It requires demonstrating not only that economics belongs with humane studies but that it is a humane study.

"This requires nothing less than bringing economics to bear on classic texts in liberal-arts curricula. Few have tried it; fewer have succeeded. One important attempt was David Levy’s book* chapter on rational choice in the Homeric epics. Levy’s perspective is important, because it uses the workhorse model of economics not as a standard for judging imaginative literature, but as a tool for understanding it. This is precisely the move teachers and scholars must make for economics to claim a spot at the humanists’ table."
*The economic ideas of ordinary people: From preferences to trade, by David M. Levy, 1992, 2012

Friday, June 11, 2021

How women invented book clubs, revolutionizing reading and their own lives

'More than 150 years before Oprah and Reese Witherspoon, women began reading together in groups."

Retopolis feature by Jess McHugh at The Washington Post.

"[Journalist Margaret] Fuller’s 'conversations,' much like many literary circles, were a way for women to pursue truth, knowledge and an understanding of themselves and the world around them. Megan Marshall, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, compared those meetings to consciousness raising groups of the 1960s and 1970s. 'There was a sense of female power that was emanating from these sessions,' Marshall said.

"Women may have been excluded from philosophical clubs and universities, but they found other ways of engaging with literature. Women’s chief role in founding the modern book club — a consequence of being marginalized from other intellectual spaces — has gone on to shape the book landscape in profound and unappreciated ways."

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Crawling on campus

'Craven surrender by Ashoka's founders inaugurates its slide, shows how private capital is unable and unwilling to stand up'

Editorial at The Indian Express.

"When it was set up, Ashoka University seemed to be taking an important step towards addressing a great deficit in higher education. The public university had long declined due to fiscal exhaustion and breakdown of the state system combined with the exit of the Indian elites from public institutions. That, over the last couple of decades or so, had led to the proliferation of private institutions, but mostly in professional education. In its stated commitment to the liberal arts, Ashoka seemed to make a prominent and welcome promise — to harness the resources of private philanthropy to address failures and deficiencies of both the state and the market. Mehta’s exit from its faculty is a seminal moment because it points to the university’s unwillingness and inability to protect the freedom of expression and ideas that is an inalienable part of that commitment."

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Why should we dance?

Claire Catenaccio reviews Oedipus the King, by Sophocles, translated By David Kovacs, at The New Criterion.

"To test their coinage, the Greeks used a touchstone, a basanos, on which pure gold leaves a yellow streak; for both Thucydides and Sophocles, plague is a touchstone of integrity and moral excellence. And while in Thucydides’ account Athens fails the test, Sophocles’ Oedipus emerges from his ordeal humbled and blinded by his own hands but still recognizably great."

See Sophocles, Plays, Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 5, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 4.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Four Plays by Aristophanes

Steve Donoghue reviews Four Plays: Clouds, Birds, Lysistrata, Women of the Assembly, by Aristophanes, translated by Aaron Poochigian, at Open Letters Review.

"Poet and translator Aaron Poochigian has now translated four of those surviving plays in an elegant and wonderfully approachable new volume from Liveright. The plays - Clouds, Birds, Lysistrata, and Women of the Assembly - were produced over the span of thirty years and are threaded through with the kinds of subtlety that’s often missed by readers (and too often also missed by translators). They can also, miraculously, still be funny in the rare instances when they’re still staged for an audience."

See Aristophanes, Plays, Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 5, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 4.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Best Thomas Hobbes Books

Nigel Warburton interviews Arash Abizadeh at Five Books.

"What Hobbes is thinking about is ideological disagreement here, where you have disagreement, and you take other people’s disagreement with you as a sign of their contempt for you. What he is really concerned about is religious and political disagreement."

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

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Virgil's Account of Hell in Dante's 'Inferno'

Note by Samuel A. Stoner in St. John's Review [at page 61].

"This essay examines Virgil's account of the structure of Hell in Dante's Inferno. It has two goals. First, it aims to highlight the fact that Virgil's account of Hell is incomplete. Second, it seeks to explain why Virgil offers this incomplete account. It will pay special attention to the fact that Virgil does not account for the sixth circle of Hell or the heretics who are punished there."

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, June 5, 2021

Mind over matter: the contradictions of George Berkeley

'He did not believe in the existence of the material world. But the 17th-century philosopher’s arguments are less radical than they seem'

Alex Dean reviews George Berkeley: A Philosophical Life by Tom Jones at Prospect.

"...why think that what I see, feel or smell accurately corresponds to what is 'out there'? 'This is 'the very root of scepticism,' he writes, for whether our ideas 'represent the true quality really existing in the thing, it is out of our reach to determine.'

"His ingenious solution was to circumvent the problem completely, by collapsing one category into the other: if you identify the object and sensory experience of it as one and the same, the room for scepticism disappears. Immaterialism is thus, in Berkeley’s framing, a solution to sceptical doubt rather than an example of it."

See Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge, Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 35, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 33.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Marcus Aurelius’ Advice For Taming Our Anger

'Nine. . . no ten. . . no twelve gifts from the Muses, Apollo, and Aurelius himself'

Gregory B. Sadler, Ph.D., at Practical Rationality.

"Commemorating the 1,900 year anniversary of Marcus Aurelius’ birth, the Chicago branch of the New Acropolis invited me to give a short talk about Marcus to their membership, and I decided to place the focus on a topic in Stoic philosophy that I’ve found particularly helpful — understanding, managing, and lessening the emotion of anger. If you’d like to watch or listen to the talk, you can do so here."

See Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 12, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 11.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Laurence Sterne, 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.

Essay by Kenneth Rexroth from Classics Revisited (1968) at Bureau of Public Secrets.

"There is no essential difference between the circumstantial picture of the human condition in Sterne and that in the most anguished Existentialist, except that Sterne’s portrayal is far more elaborate and accurate, and he thinks it’s funny."

See Sterne, Tristram Shandy, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 36.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Ten (Short) Great Books for Summer Reading

David J. Davis at The Imaginative Conservative.

"So, as the languor of summer begins, here is a list of the best books from across the Western tradition that can be read comfortably in a single afternoon."

See Henry James, The Pupil, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 3, and The Beast in the Jungle, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 59.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

All is Orwell

'On George Orwell in Spain.'

Gerald Frost at The New Criterion.

"Orwell’s Eton drawl had probably not impressed Harry Pollitt, the general secretary of the British Communist Party, who suspected, perfectly correctly, that Orwell was likely to prove 'politically unreliable' and that if he were to write about the war, he could not be relied upon to follow the party line. Pollitt therefore declined to provide the documentation that would have gotten Orwell across the Franco-Spanish border and into the International Brigades, abruptly ending their interview."

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

Monday, May 31, 2021

Reading Rat - May 2021

Articles, Essays, Reviews

Reasons to Miss the Old Union South: The austere building had its charms, by Niki Denison, On Wisconsin

Guat’s Not to Like? My Guatemalan vacation, by Bert Stratton, City Journal

Who Killed the Recumbent Bicycle? How a dominant technology became viewed as the only option, with no need for better-designed competitors. By Livia Gershon, JSTOR Daily

Rioting amid demonstrations for racial justice may have helped Donald Trump, Graphic Detail feature, The Economist

45 + 2022 = 0: Why the GOP's new Trumpless Tower will collapse, by Mickey Kaus, KausFiles #38:

How LGBTQ+ Activists Got "Homosexuality" out of the DSM: The first DSM, created in 1952, established a hierarchy of sexual deviancies, vaulting heterosexual behavior to an idealized place in American culture. By Ray Levy Uyeda, JSTOR daily

Aquinas Leadership International May 2021 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 this blog's "Conference Calendar" page.

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. Redpath.

Recently published or currently in press:

Call for papers:

More and later Announcements.

An Eastern reading list from Oxford World’s Classics

Kirsty Doole at OUPblog.

"The great works of the Eastern world have provided inspiration for this month’s Oxford World’s Classics reading list. From those you have probably heard of (like the Kamasutra) to those you may not have (such as The Recognition of Sakuntala), these classic works provide a window on the classical worlds of India, China, and the Middle East."
There does not appear to be any secular Eastern collection along the lines of Great Books of the Western World, though there is Sacred Books of the East (50 volumes, 1879-1910).

See Wm. Theodore de Bary, et al., "The Great Books of the East", The Great Ideas Today 1987, p. 222. [The Great Ideas Today was a series of one volumen annual supplements to Great Books of the Western World published from 1961 through 1998.]

Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Cambridge Companion to Homer

Barry Powell, University of Wisconsin-Madison, reviewed The Cambridge companion to Homer, edited by R. L. (Robert Louis) Fowler, from the Cambridge companions to literature series, at Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

"Whereas Dr. Johnson considered Homer a great among greats, the Romantic view was to relish his alterity and to understand his different world. By these lights, the historicism of modern Homeric criticism is Romantic, F. [Fowler] suggests, but the mystery will remain because we know nothing real about any such poet. Still, we strive to learn more, and this book will show a literary bias, while not neglecting historical issues."

See Homer in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 4, and (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 3.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Aristotle's Physics: a Physicist's Look

Carlo Rovelli, Aix Marseille Universit´e, Universit´e de Toulon, at arXiv, included in It From Bit or Bit From It? On Physics and Information (2015), edited by Anthony Aguirre, Brendan Foster, and Zeeya Merali.

"I show that Aristotelian physics is a correct and non-intuitive approximation of Newtonian physics in the suitable domain (motion in fluids), in the same technical sense in which Newton theory is an approximation of Einstein’s theory. Aristotelian physics lasted long not because it became dogma, but because it is a very good empirically grounded theory. The observation suggests some general considerations on inter-theoretical relations."
[link fixed -ed.]

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