I don’t know about you, but it irks me that even after reading 3,000 pages of science and mathematics in this Great Books Project, I still have trouble reading Isaac Newton. Oh, and I completely forgot to mention that we passed the 14,000-page mark across all categories a couple of weeks ago.
Here are the readings for the coming week:
- The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, “Prologue” and “Knight’s Tale” (GBWW Vol. 19, pp. 275-309)
- The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Book VI (GBWW Vol. 11, p. 259-264)
- “That to Philosophize Is to Learn to Die” by Michel de Montaigne (GBWW Vol. 23, pp. 84-91)
- “Solon” by Plutarch (GBWW Vol. 13, pp. 64-77)
- Optics by Isaac Newton, Book One, Part II (GBWW Vol. 32, pp. 424-455)
- Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals by Immanuel Kant (GBWW Vol. 39, pp. 251-287)
You knew we had to read Chaucer at some point, right? I’m much more scared of the Kant selection.
Here are some observations from last week’s readings:
- “On Simple and Sentimental Poetry” by Friedrich Schiller: This essay is quite long and contains a lot of interesting material, but if you’re familiar with Romanticism, you’ll understand what Schiller is advocating. He posits a distinction between the “simple” poets of antiquity, who excel in presenting the immediate, concrete, and finite; and the “sentimental” poets of modernity, who specialize in the abstract and reflective by necessity (because moderns have lost touch with nature). I especially liked his discussion of Book VI of the Iliad.
- The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Book V: I read the opening of this book to freshmen every semester. It’s just too perfect: “In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present—I am rising to the work of a human being. . . . Have I been made for this, to lie in the bed-clothes and keep myself warm?—But this is more pleasant.—Dost thou exist them to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion?”
- “That Our Happiness Must not be Judged until after Our Death” by Michel de Montaigne: Anyone who has followed along with this reading program would have known simply from this essay’s title that Montaigne was going to discuss the scene from Herodotus about Croesus and Solon.
- “Numa Pompilius” and “Lycurgus & Numa Compared” by Plutarch: I really liked this life, which I had not encountered before. As is usual with Plutarch, we get several neat vignettes, including one about Numa’s reluctance to take up the responsibilities of kingship when both Romans and Sabines were importuning him. I thought on the whole that Numa’s laws were more humane than Lycurgus’s, although Plutarch attempts to minimize the differences between them.
- Optics by Isaac Newton, Book One, Part I: Although the format of this work is similar to that of the pure mathematicians like Euclid, the propositions are proved by experiment rather than by deduction. This first part has mostly to do with the refraction and reflection of sun rays and the demonstration that different rays actually have different potentials for refraction.
- “The Immutability of God” by St. Thomas Aquinas: I’m not 100% sure how St. Thomas derives God’s immutability from the fact that He is “pure act.” I guess Malachi 3:6 is enough for me. As usual, St. Thomas has to wade through certain equivocations hiding in the objections to God’s immutability.
The summer is wearing away so quickly. My fall semester will be firing up very soon, and I’m still in the thick of trying to prepare multiple new courses for online delivery. Nevertheless, I will read this week!