I haven’t made up any days in the Great Books schedule this week, but at least I haven’t lost any, either. We’re in the middle of some dense works, but we’ll lighten it up with some Dickens this week.
Here are the readings for the coming week:
- The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Chapters 1-6 (GGB Vol. 2)*
- The Physics of Aristotle, Book VII (GBWW Vol. 7, pp. 326-333)
- Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, Volume I, Part One, Chapters 6-8 (GBWW Vol. 44, pp. 48-87)
- Oedipus the King by Sophocles (GBWW Vol. 4, pp. 111-132)
- The Almagest of Ptolemy, Book III (GBWWVol. 15, pp. 77-107)
- The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, “Transcendental Dialectic,” Introduction & Book I (GBWW Vol. 39, pp. 108-120; begins on p. 209 of the linked PDF)
*Seven chapters from The Pickwick Papers are excerpted in the GGB series. I’ve elected to read the entire novel and will list page numbers from Volume 2 of GGB when I reach excerpted chapters.
Here are some observations from last week’s readings:
- “Passion in the Desert” by Honore de Balzac:When the woman to whom the story is being related speaks unexpectedly toward the end, at first I thought it was the leopard speaking, and I found it perfectly plausible. That’s how drawn into the story I was.
- The Physics of Aristotle, Book VI:This book is really a continuation of Book V’s discussion about motion. There’s a lot of musing here on whether one can actually identify an “indivisible moment” at which an object’s motion begins (Aristotle says no). This idea of continuity reminded me again of Bertrand Russell’s dismissive attitude toward Aristotle (and everyone else).
- Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, Volume I, Part One, Ch. 1-5:It’s sad that Tocqueville has a better understanding of the American system than Abraham Lincoln. He saw how the local polities preceded the states, which in turn preceded the federal government. He also shows how the decentralized structure in America preserved liberty, another lesson most folks today have forgotten.
- “Parley Time Is Dangerous” by Michel de Montaigne:The main point here is that people are treacherous. Never let your guard down.
- The Almagest of Ptolemy, Book II, 9-13:Lots more tables in this section! Ptolemy calculates the ecliptic of the sun at practically every latitude. I’m not surprised that the translator noted that most readers could skip this part without much loss.
- The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, “Transcendental Logic,” Analytic Book II, Chapter 3: Still slogging through here without as much comprehension as I’d like. This section talks about the division of objects into the noumenal and phenomenal realms; Kant argues that “pure conceptions of the understanding” can only relate to objects detected by the senses and never to “things in general.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m very much looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday next week. Most of my classes won’t meet, and I might get caught up on a few projects, not to mention get to see my extended family. I hope you’ll find some time to read between now and then!