We’re Not Reading Enough Philosophy!

I had a bit of an epiphany last week. Feeling comfortable about the pace I had set for reading through the Gateway to the Great Books series this year, I decided to run some numbers to determine whether we’d be able to maintain the same pace in years 2-7 of this Great Books reading plan and successfully complete the Great Books of the Western World (GBWW).

After tallying up the pages of the 60-volume set and averaging them out by genre, I realized that if we wait until January 2012 to begin GBWW, we’ll have to read substantially more each week to finish the series in the scheduled time. Moreover, a greater share of that reading will be “hard stuff”: philosophical and theological treatises. I’m afraid that a sharp increase in the difficulty level of the program at that point will discourage everyone, myself included, who is making an effort to follow along with these readings one way or another.

So I have decided to make an adjustment to the reading schedule in the interests of adapting gradually to the longer and more difficult works. Beginning today, I’ll start working some selections from the GBWW series into the weekly readings. This week, for example, I’m putting a relatively easy Platonic dialogue on the list. You’ll see some Homer and other familiar works cropping up in the next few weeks as well. Over the next month, I’ll be trying to bring the weekly readings into balance with the adjusted seven-year pace, so we’ll have comparatively more philosophical works and fewer fictional works during that time. Again, this will keep us more balanced in the long run.

By taking this approach, in addition to avoiding some sudden and severe pain next January, we’ll also have the benefit of sprinkling the works of some of these authors over a longer period. Case in point: we’re less likely to experience Shakespeare overload if we spread his thirty-nine plays out over seven years instead of six.

So with that said, here are the readings for the coming week!

  1. The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (GGB Vol. 2, pp. 273-277)
  2. The Lantern-bearers” by Robert Louis Stevenson (GGB Vol. 7, pp. 112-121)
  3. Meno by Plato (GBWW Vol. 6, pp. 174-190)
  4. New Names for Old” by Edward Kasner and James R. Newman (GGB Vol. 9, pp. 121-136; from Mathematics and the Imagination)
  5. The Land of Montezuma” by William H. Prescott (GGB Vol. 6, pp. 231-243; Book III, Chapter 8 of History of the Conquest of Mexico)
  6. Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (GGB Vol. 10, pp.525-545)

From now on I’ll specify which series each selection comes from: GGB for Gateway to the Great Books and GBWW for Great Books of the Western World.

To keep this post to a manageable length, I’ll give some of my thoughts on last week’s readings tomorrow. Go forth and be enlightened!

[This post is part of my seven-year plan to read through the Gateway to the Great Books and Great Books of the Western World sets. The original post describing the plan is here.]

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About Dr. J

I am an Associate Professor and head of the Department of Humanities at Faulkner University. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy.
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5 Responses to We’re Not Reading Enough Philosophy!

  1. Sara says:

    “Good idea,” quoth she who is trying to keep up with the readings.

  2. Thank you for these. Shall we comment on this post when we finish the assignment, or elsewhere?

    • Dr. J says:

      Chris, you can either comment on this post or wait until I publish my own thoughts on the pieces linked from here (next Monday, most likely). If you don’t mind waiting, it might be more helpful to any “drive-by” surfers to have all the comments on a particular piece in one place. But if something really grabs you, and you’re burning to share, please do it here!

  3. Ginger says:

    This is a wonderful service. Thank you for doing it. Even though I’m a little late in starting, I am on board. I’ve read most of them before–but have always wanted to read them with others for the sake of dialog. Thanks again.

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