Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Marion E. Kabaker interviews Mortimer Adler

This interview of Mortimer Adler by free-lance writer Marion E. Kabaker in the Chicago Tribune includes this account of one of the most frequent anecdotes about him.

"Of all the celebrities who found some fascination in these seminars, the only one who challenged the whole enterprise was Gertrude Stein, who had been invited to lecture at the university.

"At a dinner party for her given by Bob and Maude Hutchins, both Bob and I were absent because our class met that night. After class was over, we joined the guests for cognac and coffee.

"As we took our places at the table, Gertrude turned to Bob and said, 'Where have you been, Hutchins?' Taken aback by the abruptness and forcefulness of her attack, Bob replied, 'Miss Stein, Mr. Adler and I have been teaching the great books.'

"She pounced on him with even more vigor. "Don't call me Miss Stein,' she said, 'call me Gertrude Stein. What are the great books?'

"After an explanation, Gertrude asked quickly, 'Do you read these books in their original languages or in English translations?'

"Hutchins explained that our freshman students did not have competence in Greek, Latin, Italian or French, pointing out that ideas somehow transcend the language in which they are first expressed.

"'Not so,' our grand inquisitor replied. 'Greek ideas must be studied in Greek, Latin ideas in Latin, and so on.'

"Shortly thereafter the police arrived to take Gertrude on a tour of Chicago at night in a squad car. The way I felt about her at that moment, I wished they had done it earlier and taken her for a ride Chicago-style.

"After the party broke up, Alice B. Toklas turned to me and said: 'This has been a wonderful evening. Gertrude has said things tonight that it will take her 10 years to understand.'"

Monday, September 27, 2021

Bleak and impressive

Lucy Hughes-Hallett reviews The Women of Troy, by Pat Barker, at The Guardian.

"In this sequel [to her The Silence of the Girls], Barker has stepped free of the masculinist epic tradition. Briseis is still the narrator, but Barker has left the Iliad behind, with its insistence on the glory and the pathos of warfare. The Women of Troy draws mainly on a very different source – Euripides’ tragedy The Trojan Women. This is a story not of conflict but of its aftermath."

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

Sunday, September 26, 2021

97 Theses on Hegel and His Catholic Readers

Cyril O'Regan, University of Notre Dame, at Church Life Journal.

"41. It is a plain fact that Hegel never said anything positive about either Judaism or Catholicism. He inherits the pattern from Kant and in turn adds a further German precedent which Nietzsche and Heidegger are only too happy to follow. In the Phenomenology Judaism is the basic form of 'unhappy consciousness,' Roman Catholicism a further specification. Unhappy consciousness is paradigmatically a dualistic worldview in which God is the absolute sovereign being who lords it over human beings who experience themselves as worthless by comparison. Catholicism adds a second species of alienation when it gets fixated on either the historical Jesus or the host."

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, September 25, 2021

Descartes’s Rules for Thinking (Part One)

On René Descartes's Rules for Direction of the Mind (1628): Mark Linsenmayer hosts Episode 223 at The Pariially Examined Life, A Philosophy Podcast and Philosophy Blog.

"This early, incomplete work lays out 21 rules for careful thinking (out of a planned 36) with extensive commentary on how to apply them. It is extremely helpful in figuring out where Descartes is coming from in the Meditations, and it lays out the foundations for both analytic philosophy and the emphasis on quantitative analysis in modern science."

(via Penny Parker at Great Conversation Reading Group)

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.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Marcus Aurelius, Stoicism and Pain

Jacob Bell at Classical Wisdom: Donald Robertson, author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, discusses strategies for coping with pain derived from the ancient wisdom of Stoicism.

"Stoic philosophy had a sophisticated repertoire of psychological therapy techniques at its disposal. Indeed, it was the inspiration for modern cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which first appeared in the 1950s. CBT is currently the dominant evidence-based form of psychotherapy, and provides some surprisingly robust techniques for coping psychologically with chronic pain and illness."

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

Thursday, September 23, 2021

In Turn Each Woman Thrust Her Head

Kim Todd on the hanging of the maids in Odyssey, Book 22. The Paris Review.

"The humiliation of scrubbing blood off the tables and carting out the gore, the way they bring their own necks to the rope, the transformation of their hopes—nesting, dancing—into death metaphors. In my ten-year-old mind, those feet, which should be used for sprinting through a field or exploring strange islands, became the birds seeking shelter. They flutter in a panic, then the awful stillness.

"But what particularly disturbs me now, what disturbed me even at ten, is the way that this is all just part of Telemachus’s training."

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, September 22, 2021

Tolstoy’s Uncommon Sense and Common Nonsense

Yiyun Li at The Paris Review.

"Books that I feel drawn to and reread, War and Peace among them, are full of uncommon sense and common nonsense. (Uncommon nonsense makes exhilarating literature, too, in Lewis Carroll’s case, but uncommon nonsense does better to stay uncommon: in less skillful hands, it becomes caprice or parody.)

"One imagines that Tolstoy did not seek to write about uncommon sense. He simply presented the world, and the world, looked at closely, is often extraordinary."

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, September 21, 2021

The Mystery of Plato’s Atlantis (part 1)

Van Bryan at Classical Wisdom.

"In addition to discussing the nature of the physical world and the purpose of the universe, Timaeus recounts the existence of an ancient island civilization that was unmatched in power and prosperity. And it was only after a failed invasion of Athens that this society disappeared beneath the waves, never be seen again."

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.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Social Darwinism and the Natural Law

Bradley Watson at Public Discourse.

"According to the social Darwinists and those who would follow in their footsteps, a new social science was indebted to Darwin, whose organic, genetic, and experimental logic could be brought to bear on an array of human problems heretofore considered insoluble, or at least perennial."

See Darwin, Autobiography, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 8, The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 49, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 49.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Measuring, Judging and the Good Life: Aquinas and Kant

David Ross, Holy Apostles College & Seminary, at Studia Gilsoniana.

"For Jesus, knowing God was the way in which one lived the Good Life—the way one inherits eternal life, because, while the moral law is good, it is not man’s ultimate end. These two conclusions about man’s ultimate end—either living morally or knowing God—is one that plays out when we compare the work of Immanuel Kant with St. Thomas Aquinas. For Kant, man’s ultimate end is to live morally, while for St. Thomas, man’s ultimate end is to see and know God."

See 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.

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.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Epictetus on Keeping Prohairesis in Accordance With Nature

Transcript of Gregory Sadler's invited presentation to Stoicon-X Brisbane, posted at Practical Rationality.

"I took as the title and subject for this talk one really key idea — and practice — of Epictetus that’s at the core of Stoic philosophy, that is, keeping one’s prohairesis in accordance with nature, and I’m going to talk about a few different things in this: A bit of history; what exactly is this thing, prohairesis, that we’re mentioning; what does 'in accordance with nature' mean. I’m going to give you a few examples from common life, and that Epictetus himself brings up, and then talk about what it what it really means to keep our prohairesis in accordance with nature, by using our Faculty of prohairesis — the faculty of choice — to work on itself."

See Epictetus, Enchiridon, in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 10; Discourses, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 12, (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 11.

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Constitution and the Antagonist World

From 'Classic Kirk: a curated selection of Russell Kirk’s perennial essays', an excerpt from Rights and Duties: Reflections on our Conservative Constitution, by Russell Kirk (Spence Publishing Company, 1997), at The Russell Kirk Center.

"A Note from the Editor

"Addressed to the common reader, this essay explores the question of why the American Constitution has succeeded while other constitutions of the modern period have been swept away. Kirk takes Edmund Burke as his guide to four principles of constitutional order and applies these observations to the prospects for the constitution, in its larger sense, of the United States. 'Let us now see how far the American constitution, both written and unwritten, accords with these principles, and how strongly prepared the American constitutional order may be to withstand powerful challenges in the dawning years.'"

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.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Henry James in—and out of—the Classroom

Ruth Bernard Yeazell at Daedalus.

"Henry James did not write for the classroom. His personal experience of the institution was erratic at best, and most of his work was published at a time when the novel had yet to be formally recognized as a subject of academic study. But he believed strongly that 'art lives upon discussion,' and the undergraduate classroom can be an invigorating space in which to keep that discussion going. Drawing both on my own experience of teaching James’s novels over the years and on an informal survey of Yale undergraduates who have studied the novelist with me in recent decades, this essay addresses some of the ways in which his work continues to resonate both in and out of the classroom."

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.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Review: 'Sophocles. Greece and Rome.'

Simon Goldhill, University of Cambridge, reviews Sophocles. Greece and Rome. by Patrick J. Finglass, New surveys in the classics, 44, at Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

"Finglass’ introduction to Sophocles is divided into two unequal parts. The first and shorter is entitled 'transmission'; the second, 'interpretation'. As one might expect from Finglass’ large-scale editions of Sophocles, the first section on transmission is very well-informed, neatly expressed and gives a student a clear introduction to how the manuscripts and, indeed, the image of Sophocles has come down to us. ...

"...it is in these chapters on interpretation where the book falls short, not so much because of its conservatism, but because its conservatism is poorly argued. ..."

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Review: 'Joseph Conrad’s Eastern Voyages: Tales of Singapore and an East Borneo River' by Ian Burnet

John Butler at the Asian Review of Books.

"...Burnet works backwards with the material, reordering the narrative sequence and focusing on background material to definitively link Conrad’s life with the events of the [earlier] novels, effectively building on Conrad’s own retrospective memory and quoting liberally from the novels to connect the fictional and non-fictional worlds.

"The result is interesting—Burnet is not a literary scholar, but an enthusiastic and intelligent reader of Conrad, which makes this book ideal to read if one is curious about Conrad but not that well-acquainted with his books; it is not much use for scholars of Conrad."

See Conrad, "Youth", in Gateway to the Great Books (10 Vol., 1963) volume 2; and Heart of Darkness, in Great Books of the Western World (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990 volume 59.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Nietzsche Between Christianity and Greek Myth

Cyril O'Regan, University of Notre Dame, at Church Life Journal.

"An interesting question to ask regarding this 'myth' [of Theseus and Pirithous] is what would or could two of our more original modern commentators on the Greeks, Nietzsche and Weil, make of it, despite the fact that neither actually speak to it."

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

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Through a Glass, Darkly

'The success of Hobbes's radical project seems more impressive than ever.'

Review by Loren Rotner of Hobbes's Kingdom of Light: A Study of the Foundations of Modern Political Philosophy, by Devin Stauffer, at the Claremont Review of Books.

"...Stauffer gives the strongest account of his subject’s ambition, focusing especially on his attempt to transform all human opinion of politics, morality, science, and theology in the direction of radical, amoral, materialist individualism."

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

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Hemingway Story From 1956 Published for First Time

ICYMI, 'The themes and trappings are familiar for an Ernest Hemingway narrative: Paris, wartime, talk of books and wine and the scars of battle.'

As reported by Hillel Italie, Associated Press, August 2, 2018.

"the story itself has been little known beyond the scholarly community for decades: "A Room on the Garden Side," written in 1956, is being published for the first time. The brief, World War II-era fiction appears this week in the summer edition of The Strand Magazine, a literary quarterly which has released obscure works by Raymond Chandler, John Steinbeck and others."

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.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Rousseau & the origins of liberalism

Roger Scruton with 'The second in a series titled "The betrayal of liberalism"' at The New Criterion.

"In Rousseau, of course, the [social] contract does not amount to much. No sooner are we released from social burdens than we submit to a “general will” that brooks no opposition, and that adds to its commands the insolent assertion that, in obeying it, we are doing our own will. Freedom is no sooner obtained than thrown away. All who have studied Robespierre’s 'despotism of liberty' will know how dangerous Rousseau’s paradoxes can be when their inner (that is to say, religious) meaning is brought to the surface."

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.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity

Review by Paul A. Cantor of How the Classics Made Shakespeare, by Jonathan Bate, at Modern Age.

"It is a sad commentary on the current state of Shakespeare criticism that this book needed to be written, but Bate has indeed performed a valuable service by reminding us that the achievement of the greatest English author was deeply rooted in traditions that go all the way back to the ancient Greek and Roman worlds."

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

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Theology’s Invisible Hand

Daniel K. Finn reviews Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, by enjamin M. Friedman, at Commonweal.

"Friedman borrows the title for this splendid new book from a famous 1926 work by R. H. Tawney. Both an historian and a crusader for social justice, Tawney lamented the loss of moral criteria in humanity’s rush to increase the GDP. Friedman restricts his book to the history of ideas, though these certainly have implications for life more generally.

"The book makes a wonderfully novel claim about the influence of religion on the unreligious genius of Adam Smith. Today, when so many have come to believe the historical error that science developed in opposition to religion, Friedman’s argument is refreshing."

(via Arts & Letters Daily)

See Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, in Great Books of the Western World (first edition, 52 Vol., 1952) volume 39 and (second edition, 60 Vol., 1990) volume 36.