It’s Great Books Monday once again, and I’d like to note that in this program’s most difficult genre (for me), science and mathematics, we’re going to pass the 1,600-page mark this week. But if you’re just joining us, don’t despair; we have a couple of shorter pieces this week that you can complete in one sitting.
Here are the readings for the upcoming week:
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Ch. 4-10 (GBWW Vol. 48, pp. 275-292)
- The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, Book IX (GBWW Vol. 8, pp. 416-426)
- “Alexander” by Plutarch (GBWW Vol. 13, pp. 540-576)
- “Literature of Knowledge and Literature of Power” by Thomas DeQuincey (GGB Vol. 5, pp. 358-361)
- The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, Ch. 5 (GBWW Vol. 49, pp. 65-79)
- The City of God by St. Augustine, Book XIX (GBWW Vol. 16, pp. 575-599; in the linked text, it’s the material under the second of the headings “A review of the philosophical opinions regarding the Supreme Good . . .” and its subheads)
We haven’t read any Plutarch in some time, and Alexander the Great will be a great biography with which to resume our study. We’ll wrap up Aristotle next week!
Here are some observations from last week’s readings:
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Ch. 1-3: Huck is quite the little heathen, isn’t he? It’s odd how he’s such a skeptic when it comes to the garbled instruction in Christianity given to him by his wards, yet he’s absolutely convinced that killing a spider will bring him bad luck. The “gang of robbers” vignette was fun. Had Tom Sawyer really read Don Quixote?
- The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, Book VIII: I really wish every high school student would be required to read this section of the Ethics. I know many will bristle at the un-egalitarian assumptions in play, but there are so many profound observations about the nature of friendship in it that everyone would gain something from reading. My wife commented on how timeless the analysis seemed to be after she had read it.
- “Of Great Place” by Francis Bacon: I wonder whether Bacon wrote this piece before or after he was ejected from his government post on corruption charges. There are some good observations here, but the irony was almost too much.
- “Cupid and Psyche” by Lucius Apuleius: It’s hard to go wrong when the story starts off with a beautiful young woman in a fix. Throw in envious sisters and even an envious goddess, and the whole thing is dynamite. Several scholars have detected a Platonic theme here, and of course I have to give a nod to C.S. Lewis’s brilliant reworking of the story, Till We Have Faces.
- The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, Ch. 4: I didn’t quite follow all of the discussion of why the most divergent species of a genus are the ones most likely to evolve into new species. Did Darwin really leave open the possibility of spontaneous generation of lower forms in that reference to Lamarck? It’s interesting how he apologizes for and then continues to use the personification of nature; it’s as though he can’t get around using the language of purpose even while insisting on randomness.
- The City of God by St. Augustine, Book XVIII: This book was a long haul; it covers not only parallel events in Hebrew history alongside the Assyrians, Romans, etc., but also defends the canon of Scripture, the Septuagint translation, and the Christian interpretation of Old Testament prophecies. I like the warning against complacency on the part of Christians who assume there will be no more persecutions of the Faith; that’s a sound warning in any age.
It has gotten quite warm here in Montgomery. I love the flexibility of my summer schedule, but I loathe the heat and humidity here in the Deep South. It’s indoor reading for the next few months, I’m afraid.