Montaigne is a Jerk

[Apologies for the late posting. This originally went up on Monday on The Western Tradition, but I neglected to post here.]

Having crossed the 3,500-page mark of our Great Books reading project this past week, it’s time to celebrate by returning to the fountainhead of Western literature and putting ourselves on track to–wait for it–finish a volume of the Great Books of the Western World within a couple of months!

Here are the readings for the upcoming week:

  1. The Iliad of Homer, Books I-III  (GBWW Vol. 3, pp. 1-38)
  2. Of Bashfulness” by Plutarch (GGB Vol. 7, pp. 97-109)
  3. Plato’s Republic, Book VIII (GBWW Vol. 6, pp. 401-416)
  4. Federalist #51 (GBWW Vol. 40, pp. 162-165; Antifederalist responses are here)
  5. “The Running Down of the Universe”by Sir Arthur Eddington  (GGB Vol. 8, pp. 565-580; Chapter 4 of The Nature of the Physical World)
  6. How We Think by John Dewey, Chapter XIV-XV (GGB Vol. 10, pp. 169-185)

I can’t find the Eddington piece online; the best I can do is a link to the 1928 book from which it came.

Here are some observations on last week’s readings:

  1. Animal Farm by George Orwell, Chapters VI-X: Orwell has those Soviet commissars pegged, right down to their habitual drunkenness. The lack of resistance to the rewriting of history is disturbing but all too plausible. And in the end the animals finally learn what Mises and Hayek tried to tell them: central planning benefits only the planners.
  2. “On Democritus and Heraclitus” by Montaigne: So does Montaigne strike you as a bit of a jerk? “I like the guys who hate and ridicule humanity more than those who just hate it.” Please.
  3. Plato’s Republic, Book VII: Here we have the famous Allegory of the Cave along with praise of arithmetic and geometry. I think I’ll send a quote or two to my math colleagues this week to encourage them.
  4. Federalist #49-50: The argument in these two papers is against the periodic recourse to “the people” for ratification of the government’s actions or in cases of a suspected constitutional breach by one branch of the government. The reasoning here is plausible, but the question remains unanswered: What recourse do we have when the government oversteps its constitutional bounds? If your answer is “the Supreme Court,” you’ve missed the point.
  5. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin: I’m no Darwinist, but I enjoyed this work, particularly the recollections of other famous Englishmen Darwin was able to meet. My kids love The Three Caballeros movie, and I was glad to be able to tell them I had just read about a man who took a trip to Bahia; however, my three-year-old seemed upset that Darwin went there in a ship instead of on a train like Donald Duck did.
  6. How We Think by John Dewey, Chapter X-XII: So Dewey likes the scientific method. I’m waiting for him to explain, as I’ve been waiting for any “social scientist” to explain, how you can experiment on people and expect the same reliability of results that you get when experimenting on inanimate stuff.

School is firing up again here. I’m wading into the philosophy of history and the Middle Ages, among other things. Everyone is busy; don’t let it keep you from reading something this week, though!

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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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One Response to Montaigne is a Jerk

  1. Dan says:

    https://archive.org/details/natureofphysical00eddi is where you can find The Nature of the Physical World.

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