Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Blind Poet Who Saw Visions of Religious and Political Freedom

Fiona Sampson reviews Making Darkness Light: A Life of John Milton, by Joe Moshenska, at The New York Times.

"This is a Milton who, while still at Cambridge, has 'a deep and durable conviction that he was destined to write,' although it seems almost anachronistic to have professed such a belief at the time. But he was, after all, a member of an emergent middle class, with the means to entertain such plans. His father was a moneylender as well as a musician, and Milton too would become both a moneylender and a landlord."

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.

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Emancipation Proclamation: Annotated

'Abraham Lincoln proclaimed freedom for enslaved people in America on January 1, 1863. Today, we’ve annotated the Emancipation Proclamation for readers.'

At JSTOR.

"In this second document in our Annotations series, we’ve collected scholarship around Lincoln’s progress toward issuing the Proclamation (including his deliberations between decision and Proclamation), his concerns about the Constitutionality of, and possible challenges to it, the responses of Americans to the decree, and how views of Lincoln held by lay people (and historians) have changed through time."

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.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

George Orwell outside the whale

'What the writer teaches us about politics and the imagination in a time of crisis.'

Ian McEwan at The New Statesman.

"The encounter between the two men (the American was almost 45, the Englishman 33) had been well smoothed in advance by Orwell’s positive review of Miller’s novel, Tropic of Cancer, which was followed by a collegiate exchange of letters. The meeting presents us with a tableau vivant and source for the heart of Orwell’s celebrated essay 'Inside the Whale', published in book form just over three years later in 1940 by Gollancz."

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

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Epictetus on Love and Affection: A Stoic Paradox

'Is Stoicism as cold and indifferent as it seems?'

Gregory Sadler at Practical Rationality.

"Invariably, perhaps because it is early on in the [Enchiridion's] text, so it catches the eye of a reader not yet wearied, section three catches their attention, or at least the end line of it.
'If you kiss your child, or your wife, say that you only kiss things which are human, and thus you will not be disturbed if either of them dies.'
"...Epictetus’ actual position is caricatured in the last line of that section — or rather in our inferences from it — but one would only know that by reading one’s way into his Discourses, rather than by confronting that passage with another chosen from the Enchiridion."

See Epictetus, The Enchiridon, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 10; The Discourses, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 54 Vol., 1952) volume 12, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 11.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Encountering the Spirit of Revolutionary Negation

Daniel J. Mahoney at Law & Liberty.

"The 150th anniversary of the publication of Dostoevsky’s Demons (also known as Devils and perhaps less accurately as The Possessed) provides a welcome opportunity to reengage this timely and timeless literary dissection of moral and political nihilism. In it, Dostoevsky gathered all his imaginative and prophetic powers to confront the spirit of radical negation that defines the modern revolutionary project."


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.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Robert C. Schmiel, University of Calgary, reviewed The Iliad of Homer, Part One: Books 1-6, Read in Ancient Greek by Stephen G. Daitz, at Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

"Although the arguments for the correct pronunciation of Ancient Greek are overwhelming, and the excuse that we cannot teach and practice what we cannot know is more convenient than convincing, far too little attention is paid to correct pronunciation. ...

"Stephen Daitz has waged vigorous war against this vice, by recording numerous tapes in the series The Living Voice of Greek and Latin, and by persuading the APA to include practical sessions on the reading of Greek and Latin poetry in various meters. ..."

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

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Friendship based on virtue

"Here's the next Sadler's Lectures podcast episode on Aristotle's treatment of friendship in Nicomachean Ethics books 8-9, this one focused on the best and most paradigmatic, but also least common type of friendship!"

Gregory Sadler on Book 8 at SoundCloud.


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.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Twelve days of "Thucydides"

Annual Christmas Eve round-up of misattributions at The Thucydides Bot.

Sartre, Jaspers, Heidegger, Kierkegaard

At The Center for Cassette Studies, 1973.

"Dr. Walter Kaufmann explores the origins, basic premises, literary influences, and relation to Christianity of existentialism, illustrating with Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Heidegger, and Sartre in comparison to empiricism, rationalism, and pragmatism."
Part One.

See Heidegger, "What Is Metaphysics?" in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 55

See Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 43

Monday, January 10, 2022

The best books on Logic

Recommended by Tom Stoneham in an interview by Nigel Warburton at Five Books.

"When struggling with the paradoxes we seem to have reached or even transgressed the limits of thinking.

Wittgenstein’s book [Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus] is about how we understand the thinkable and the unthinkable, which is a traditional philosophical problem. In this book, Wittgenstein approaches the problem from the point of view of formal logic."


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

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Time and Personal Identity in Nietzsche’s Theory of Eternal Recurrence

Scott Jenkins, University of Kansas, in Philosophy Compass.

"Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence is an essential part of his mature philosophy, butthe theory’s metaphysical commitments and practical implications are both obscure. In this essay I consider only the metaphysical elements of the theory, with the aim of determining whether it is possible that we live our lives infinitely many times, as the theory maintains. I argue that the possibility of eternal recurrence turns on issues in personal identity and the metaphysics of time. As I proceed, I also consider the relation between Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence and theories of recurrence found in the work of Heraclitus, the Pythagoreans, and the Stoics."

See Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 43

Saturday, January 8, 2022

What We Can and Can’t Learn from a New Translation of the Gospels

Casey Cep reviews The Gospels: A new translation, Sarah Ruden, translator, at The New Yorker.

"Ruden strips away theologically laden words like 'repentance' and 'sin,' returning to what she calls 'the self-expressive text,' which she laments 'has fallen under the muffling, alien weight of later Christian institutions and had the life nearly smothered out of it.'

"Perhaps, but one translator’s smothering is another’s reasoned attempt at conveying the meaning of distinctive concepts, as opposed to just distinct words. Consider 'Holy Spirit,' which Ruden renders as 'life breath,' and 'heaven,' which she occasionally translates as 'the kingdom of the skies.'"


See:
Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 54 Vol., 1952)

"Readers who are startled to find the Bible omitted from the set will be reassured to learn that this was done only because Bibles are already widely distributed, and it was felt unnecessary to bring another, by way of this set, into homes that had several already. References to the Bible are, however, included in both the King James and the Douai versions under the appropriate topics in the Syntopicon." (The Great Conversation, by Robert M. Hutchinsmm, volume 1, p. xvii). [Syntopicon is the title of the extensive topical index to the entire set.]
Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990)
"References to Bible, when present, are always placed first. The Bible is not included as part of the set, since there is no definitive version acceptable to everyone." Introduction to The Syntopicon (vol. 1, p. xiv),

Friday, January 7, 2022

Rebel Without a Constant Conjunction

At Existential Comics.

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 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 Kant, Perpetual Peace, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 7; The Critique of Pure Reason, The Critique of Practical Reason, and The Critique of Judgement, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 42, and (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 39.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Saving Pedagogy: Dante as the Poet of Education

Scott F. Criderr, University of Dallas, Constantin College of Liberal Arts, at Public Discourse.

"Of the many forms of human association that the Western Tradition thinks of as paradigmatic—the friend, the lover, the spouse, the parent, the child, the sibling, the fellow worker, the fellow citizen—the pedagogic form (often confused with those others) is, on the one hand, seldom discussed, yet, on the other, represented throughout. Drawing on Athens and Jerusalem, we can think of Plato’s dialogues or Christianity’s Gospels. Add to that Paris and Rousseau’s Emile, and you begin to have a curriculum."

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.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Four Important Lessons from Aristotle’s “The Politics”

"Socrates" at Classical Wisdom.

"Politics, when you get right down to it, aims at uncovering 'the ideal state'. The more astute of you may already have realized that this was also, more or less, the goal of Plato’s magnum opus, The Republic.

"However, while Plato devoted much of his time in Republic to establishing the credibility of an unseen realm of forms, Aristotle instead focuses on that which is empirical, observable, and makes use of the numerous forms of political systems that were practiced during the age, discussing their strengths while uncovering their blunders."


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.

See Plato, in 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 Apology, Crito, and Phaedo regarding the trial and imprisonment and death of Socrates.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Eternal Recurrence and Nihilism:

'Adding Weight to the Unbearable Lightness of Action'

Draft essay by Nadeem J. Z. Hussain at PhilArchive.


See Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 43

Monday, January 3, 2022

Who Are The Semi-Socratics?

"Socrates" at Classical Wisdom.

"When classicist talk of Socratic disciples, we immediately think of Plato and his contributions following the death of Socrates. So profound were Plato’s ideas, so remarkable in their scope and implications that it is easy to just assume that Plato was the only follower of Socrates who ever did anything of note in the field of philosophy.

Believe it or not, there were other thinkers, influenced by Socrates, who went out and, for better or worse, planted their flag within the intellectual landscape of classical Greece."

See Plato, in 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 Apology, Crito, and Phaedo regarding the trial and imprisonment and death of Socrates.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Famous Authors' Tinder Openers

Irving Ruan at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.


See Twain, The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg, Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) in volume 2, Learning the River, from Life on the Mississippi, in volume 6; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 48.

See Hemingway, "The Killers", in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 2, and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber", in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 60.

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.

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

See Shakespeare, Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volumes 26-27, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volumes 24-25.

See James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 59

Saturday, January 1, 2022

A Tale of Two Curricula:

'General Education at St. John’s College and the University of Chicago'

Brandon Shin at The Chicago Maroon.

"Hutchins’s push against the New Plan started in 1930 after he became acquainted with Mortimer Adler, an instructor at Columbia University who would go on to become one of the leaders of the Great Books movement.

"According to a 2009 dissertation by William Scott Rule, Seventy Years of Changing Great Books at St. John’s College, which details the history of Great Books at St. John’s and beyond, Adler himself first encountered the idea of a Great Books education at Columbia University as a student in John Erskine’s General Honors course, a course which Adler would eventually go on to help teach."
(via Heather Salonga, at Great Conversations Reading Group)

Friday, December 31, 2021

Reading Rat - December 2021

Aquinas Leadership International

Announcements

Events

Selections at the blog Conference Calendar page

Calendar for selected Book discussions groups

Articles, Essays, Reviews

Do We Actually See Shadows? by Roy Sorensen, JSTOR

Zemmo Better Blues:Why France's wild national identitarian hits a sweet spot, KausFiles #46, by Mickey Kaus

The Russian Novel That Foresaw—but Underestimated—Totalitarianism: Yevgeny Zamyatin, the author of We, was both the original writer of totalitarian terror and one of its original victims. By Masha Gessen, The New Yorker

What Are Public Schools For? Parents have a different answer than activists and policymakers do. By Oren Cass, City Journal

Catholic archdiocese of Malta says it could not have foreseen alleged "land grab", by Catholic News Agency, Catholic World Report

SSRN 2021 Year In Review, Social Science Research Network (video)

Sophocles's 'A Christmas Story'

Amanda Lehr at McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

"TIME AND SCENE. A modest suburban home in Hohman, Indiana. The patriarch’s Leg Lamp—a major award for besting his opponents in a contest of words—dominates the façade; it illuminates the front window with a sacral glow.

"Many days have passed since Ralphie solved the Riddle of the Ovaltine, yet fate remains unyielding. ..."

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

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Two Centuries of Dostevsky

Christopher Sandford at Modern Age.

"It’s not necessary to descend into the briar patch of psychiatry to conclude that Dostoevsky’s intimate familiarity with the cycle of man’s suffering and grace was to become a principal source of his novels. They may seem to us to be a touch on the somber side as a result. A budding artist exposed to the spectacle of emaciated bodies and degradation doesn’t have the same instincts as one weaned on the products of Walt Disney. But then again, Dostoevsky’s aren’t the sorts of books that find any particular virtue in sharing the boredom and melancholy of the author’s own life. He recognizes the central truth that art should lift us out of the dreariness of the day-to-day, not rub our faces in it."

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.

[Re: Walt Disney, see John Winger, below. -ed.]

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The best books on Aristotle

'Aristotle, says Edith Hall, is "quite simply the most important intellectual who ever lived." Here the author and classicist selects five key Aristotle books to further your understanding of the great philosopher's life and work.'

Interview by Nigel Warburton at Five Books.

"With even the surviving books–Aristotle wrote between one and two hundred, and we’ve only got an eighth of the total—we have to be far more careful about assuming that every single word is correctly transmitted, in a way we don’t with Plato. Plato was carefully copied out from day one and was preserved beautifully in the manuscript tradition of Byzantium."

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.