Whew! Many apologies for the delay in posting this week’s readings. I lost three days over the weekend by traveling to Arkansas for my 20-year high school reunion (which, by the way, was fantastic). I didn’t finish the Iliad until this afternoon and will have to buckle down to get through this week’s readings by next Monday.
Here are the readings for the upcoming week:
- “White Nights” by Fyodor Dostoevsky (GGB Vol. 3, pp. 276-319)
- “The Character of Socrates” by Xenophon (GGB Vol. 6, pp. 223-226; Book IV, Chapters VII-VIII of Memorabilia)
- Second Treatise on Civil Government by John Locke, Ch. XVI-XIX (GBWW Vol. 33, pp. 65-81)
- Federalist #64-65 (GBWW Vol. 40, pp. 195-200; Antifederalist responses are here)
- “On Ancient Medicine” by Hippocrates (GBWW Vol. 9, pp. 1-17)
- The Way Things Are (or On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius, Book IV (GBWW Vol. 11, pp. 43-58)
We get to check off Locke’s Second Treatise this week; we’re knocking out these works pretty quickly.
Here are some observations on last week’s readings:
- The Iliad of Homer, Books XXII-XXIV: The ancients had some intense mourning customs: Priam was still rolling around in dung twelve days after Hector’s death. The exchange between Achilles and Priam is so powerful that even my freshmen get it. I wonder how many modern readers are surprised or angered when they get to the end of the poem. Where’s the Trojan Horse? Who wins? Clearly we’re supposed to be taking something else away from this.
- “Address at Cooper Institute” by Abraham Lincoln: This is a very clever speech, and it makes some valid points. Of course Lincoln doesn’t bother to bring up the Northern demonization of the South in the 1850s, nor does he note that the Founders formulated their policy on slavery in the territories in an era when the Western border of the U.S. was the Mississippi River, and there was no obvious prospect of westward expansion.
- Second Treatise on Civil Government by John Locke, Chapters X-XV: I was really surprised by the chapter on the prerogative. Locke is working in an environment where there’s a sharp distinction between the rulers and “the people,” and I think this accounts for his uncritical acceptance of acts of prerogative that purport to be in the people’s interest.
- Federalist #62-63: “It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.” Can a better indictment of our system be found?
- “The Chemical History of a Candle” Michael Faraday, Lectures V-VI: When I started this series of lectures, I had no idea Faraday would end up talking about respiration, charcoal, etc. He certainly got a lot of mileage out of the simple candle he started with.
- The Way Things Are (or On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius, Book III: This book reminded me of the story of the guy who tried to weigh people both immediately before and immediately after the moment of death to determine the weight of the soul that had just left them. And the soul generates the worms in the body? Wow. This book seemed more pessimistic than the first two, but I may just be projecting.
One volume down! We say farewell to Homer now, but be assured that we’ll come across many, many more references to his characters before our project is complete.