We’re Not Reading Enough Philosophy!

I had a bit of an epiphany last week. Feeling comfortable about the pace I had set for reading through the Gateway to the Great Books series this year, I decided to run some numbers to determine whether we’d be able to maintain the same pace in years 2-7 of this Great Books reading plan and successfully complete the Great Books of the Western World (GBWW).

After tallying up the pages of the 60-volume set and averaging them out by genre, I realized that if we wait until January 2012 to begin GBWW, we’ll have to read substantially more each week to finish the series in the scheduled time. Moreover, a greater share of that reading would be “hard stuff”: philosophical and theological treatises. I’m afraid that a sharp increase in the difficulty level of the program at that point will discourage everyone, myself included, who is making an effort to follow along with these readings one way or another.

So I have decided to make an adjustment to the reading schedule in the interests of adapting gradually to the longer and more difficult works. Beginning today, I’ll start working some selections from the GBWW series into the weekly readings. This week, for example, I’m putting a relatively easy Platonic dialogue on the list. You’ll see some Homer and other familiar works cropping up in the next few weeks as well. Over the next month, I’ll be trying to bring the weekly readings into balance with the adjusted seven-year pace, so we’ll have comparatively more philosophical works and fewer fictional works during that time. Again, this will keep us more balanced in the long run.

By taking this approach, in addition to avoiding some sudden and severe pain next January, we’ll also have the  benefit of sprinkling the works of some of these authors over a longer period. Case in point: we’re less likely to experience Shakespeare overload if we spread his thirty-nine plays out over seven years instead of six.

So with that said, here are the readings for the coming week!

  1. The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (GGB Vol. 2, pp. 273-277)
  2. The Lantern-bearers” by Robert Louis Stevenson (GGB Vol. 7, pp. 112-121)
  3. Meno by Plato (GBWW Vol. 6, pp. 174-190)
  4. New Names for Old” by Edward Kasner and James R. Newman (GGB Vol. 9, pp. 121-136; from Mathematics and the Imagination)
  5. The Land of Montezuma” by William H. Prescott (GGB Vol. 6, pp. 231-243; Book III, Chapter 8 of History of the Conquest of Mexico)
  6. Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (GGB Vol. 10, pp.525-545)

To keep this post to a manageable length, I’ll give some of my thoughts on last week’s readings tomorrow. Go forth and be enlightened!

[This post was originally published on this site’s parent blog, The Western Tradition.]


About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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