At long last, we are back with the Great Books Project. I was without web access (access costing less than $0.75/minute, anyway) for two weeks, and upon my return I had to devote most of my “brain” time to a writing project (nearing completion but still not finished). Apologies, but now we are back on track!
Here are the readings for the coming week:
- “The Gentleman from San Francisco” by Ivan Bunin (GGB Vol. 3, pp. 102-123)
- The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Book I (GBWW Vol. 11, p. 233-242)
- “That the Taste of Good and Evil Depends in Large Part on the Opinion We Have of Them” by Michel de Montaigne (GBWW Vol. 23, pp. 69-78)
- “Montaigne” by Sainte-Beuve (GGB Vol. 5, pp. 76-89)
- The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, Part VI, Sections H-I (GBWW Vol. 54, pp. 319-340; pp. 141-161 of the linked PDF)
- The Rhetoric of Aristotle, Book II (GBWW Vol. 8, pp. 622-653)
It has been several years since I read the Meditations through; I am interested in comparing Aurelius with Epictetus.
Here are some observations from last week’s readings:
- ““Tradition and the Individual Talent” by T.S. Eliot: “’‘The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.’ Precisely, and they are that which we know.” This is a great response to the present-ist philistinism admirers of the classics encounter continually.
- “What We Ought to Have Ready in Difficult Circumstances” by Epictetus: I suppose the message of this one-paragraph discourse is, “Stick to your guns when the chips are down.” (Sorry for the mixed metaphor.) Discourses like this one strain the usual interpretation that the Stoics equated God with the natural world: “When you are going into any great personage, remember that Another also from above sees what is going on, and that you ought to please Him rather than the other.”
- “Ceremony of Interviews between Kings” by Michel de Montaigne: Montaigne appears to be of two minds here. He claims that the “servile attendance of courts” is something to be shunned, but then goes on to write that “the knowledge of courtesy [i.e. court behavior] and good manners is a very necessary study. It is , like grace and beauty, that which begets liking and an inclination to love one another at the first sight.” I couldn’t help but think of the contrasting manners of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice.
- Perpetual Peace by Immanuel Kant: Would that the Critique of Pure Reason had been as lucid as this! This essay contains many provocative ideas; some of them are crackpot, but others are pretty profound. From the economic perspective, it looks as though Kant has imbibed some Hume and has come to sound conclusions about debt and international finance.
- The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, Part VI, Sections F-G: These sections made for interesting reading, but are difficult to summarize. Freud rattles off numerous examples of occurrences of numbers, odd actions or speech, and intellectual feats in dreams. He lists most of these without comment, but whenever he interprets one of these events, there’s something sexual about it.
- The Rhetoric of Aristotle, Book I: Aristotle discusses the differences between syllogisms and enthymemes, deduction and induction, etc. He also covers different kinds of audiences and what motivates them to acts of virtue or vice. Along the way we get miniature versions of the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics.
Having missed three scheduled weeks of Great Books Project posts, it will take me a while to get back onto the original schedule that will complete the project in seven years. I’m going to do this by reading extra pages per weekly post over the next few months rather than trying to make extra posts. In the future, I suppose I will need to anticipate web-less weeks a little better and build some cushion into the posting schedule.