Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

We broke the 7,000-page mark last week in our Great Books project, in case you were curious about that sound akin to shattering glass.

Here are the readings for the upcoming week:

  1. The Aeneid of Virgil, Book XII (GBWW Vol. 12, pp. 298-322)
  2. The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, Book III (GBWW Vol. 8, pp. 355-366)
  3. Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (GBWW Vol. 50, pp. 415-434)
  4. The Queen of Spades” by Alexander Pushkin (GGB Vol. 3, pp. 484-507)
  5. “Arguments for and against Galileo” by Tommaso Campanella (GGB Vol. 8, pp. 359-364; unfortunately I could not find an online version of this introduction to Apologia pro Galileo)
  6. The City of God by St. Augustine, Book XIII (GBWW Vol. 16, pp. 415-432; in the linked text, it’s the material under the heading “That death is penal . . .” and its subheads)

We wrap up the Aeneid this week and subject ourselves to Marx and Engels. I trust that Aristotle and Augustine will provide a sufficient antidote.

Here are some observations from last week’s readings: Camilla

  1. The Aeneid of Virgil, Book XI: The inverted parallels with Homer continue to strike me here. Now Evander echoes Priam despite the fact that the murdered Pallas is a clear parallel to Patroclus. Feminist scholars have had a field day with Camilla, as you might expect.
  2. The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, Book II: Virtue as a mean between two extremes, determined by reason and prudence. Also the notion of acquiring virtue through habituation. There’s much here to contemplate.
  3. “Of Giving the Lie” by Michel de Montaigne: Montaigne quotes the same pagan as did Bacon in his essay on lying: the liar is fearful towards men but brave towards God. It’s interesting how Montaigne discusses the label “liar” as the worst of all insults. Obviously he was writing in an age before “racist” meant anything.
  4. “The Hero as King” by Thomas Carlyle: Having read a whole lot about Oliver Cromwell in graduate school, I was interested to see that Carlyle’s argument has apparently had a real influence on interpretations of the man. Most secular scholars still take a dim view of him, but the honest ones acknowledge his sincerity. Moderns definitely favor Napoleon over Cromwell, though, despite Carlyle’s preference for the latter.
  5. Dialogues Concerning the Two New Sciences by Galileo Galilei, Fourth Day: I now know more about parabolas than I ever thought possible. Fortunately this last section was only about half the length as the previous one and was thus much more manageable. I had to skim some of the proofs again but followed them pretty well.
  6. The City of God by St. Augustine, Book XII: I enjoyed the discussion of the nature of time here, and there’s a lot more on angels. Augustine’s insistence on the young age of the earth has led to much smug dismissiveness on the part of modern readers. I saw one list of readers’ comments on this work that was so full of chronological snobbery it practically made me ill.

I hope everyone had a joyous Easter yesterday. The weather was great here and I enjoyed a good day with my family. Now read some Great Books this week!

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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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3 Responses to Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

  1. Alice Jewell says:

    Don’t miss the difference between the death of Hector and the death of Turnus. Virgil says a lot about what kind of hero Rome needs in Aeneas’s attitude.

  2. Fred Jewell says:

    The “golden mean” is all in the way opposites are labeled/defined. What is the “golden mean” between respect for other peoples/cultures and genocide?

    • Dr. J says:

      The extremes are vices by definition. “Genocide” is not a vice. In this case Aristotle would likely put patriotism as the mean between xenophobia and national self-loathing.

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