35% Off the Best Subscription on the Internet through Christmas Eve!

If you are agonizing over Christmas gifts this late in the game or are considering treating yourself to intellectual stimulation, consider a subscription to Liberty Classroom. All membership levels are 35% off through Christmas Eve. Check out the offer here.

Although I have not produced a new course for the site since 2016, new courses from other scholars continue to appear. By my account the site is up to 23 courses, including a series of lectures on science fiction, another on mythology, and third on the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder for the literarily inclined. I am planning on recording a new course for the site in 2019, so beat the rush and get your discounted subscription before Christmas.

If you subscribe via my affiliate link, you’ll help me pay for the damage to bathroom, which flooded a couple of hours ago. Thanks for your support!

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New Material on the Way

What a year this has been. I’ve had a very heavy teaching load and more administrative duties at the university. I’ve also increased my output of scholarly writing and frequency of work-related travel. So this blog has fallen by the wayside.

The good news is that a lighter load is on the horizon, and I plan to begin updating this site more frequently in the coming months. I’ll post some of my recent publications and also resume the Great Books discussion. There’s exciting news to share in the near future. Thanks for sticking around.

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Moscow Becomes French (Briefly)

Historical causation, the freewill/determinism dilemma, and the authority of scripture are just a few of the heavy topics we covered in the last set of readings. Now it’s time to press on.

Here are the readings for the coming week:

  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Book XI, Chapters 20-34 (GBWW Vol. 51, pp. 499-532)
  2. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, Part III, Chapters 42-43 (GBWW Vol. 21, pp. 207-246)
  3. The Discourses of Epictetus, Book II, Chapters 10-11 (GBWW Vol. 11, pp. 140-142)
  4. Sonnets LXXXVI-XC by William Shakespeare (GBWW Vol. 25, p. 599-600)
  5. Principles of Psychology by William James, Chapter XXVII (GBWW Vol. 53, pp. 836-850)
  6. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Book I, Chapters 13 (GBWW Vol. 20, pp. 41-61)

It’s hard to believe, but we are only a couple of chapters away from finishing the James book. I think I might be be ready to get back to some mathematics once it’s over. We’ll see.

Here are some observations from the last set of readings:

  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Book XI.1-19: Things are certainly rushing ahead now. Pierre’s wife finally leaves him, using conversion to Roman Catholicism as a pretext. The inhabitants of Moscow flee the city before the approaching French army despite the mayor’s calls for a last stand, following the Russian army’s example. Andrew arrives severely wounded at Natasha’s house, but the household conspires to keep this knowledge from her. The first chapter of the book is Tolstoy’s most overt statement of his philosophy of historical causation to this point. He argues that the life or career of a Great Man is an inappropriate unit for a historian to use in order to calculate the sum of history.
  2. 220px-witch_of_endor_28nikolay_ge29Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, Part III, Chapters 36-41: Hobbes continues to play word games in this section in an attempt to drain scripture of its supernatural character and its testimony about the supernatural. A good example is his statement that the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28) was a fraud and that Samuel’s spirit never appeared to Saul. He naturalizes to the greatest extent he can all the passages dealing with prophecy and miracles. He apparently doesn’t know how to handle clearly passages dealing with heaven or hell, but he spills a lot of ink in discussing the nature of the church. We’re not quite there yet, but he appears to be working towards an Erastian framework.
  3. The Discourses of Epictetus, Book II, Chapters 8-9: I don’t call attention to this very much when discussing the pagan authors, but these two essays contain some screaming parallels to the Bible. On the surface, there’s the discussion of “what makes one a Jew” in Ch. 9. More interesting to me was the section about the human body’s being the house of God in Ch. 8: “You carry him within yourself, and you perceive not that you are polluting him by impure thoughts and dirty deeds.” This is very close to St. Paul’s language in I Corinthians about the body’s being the temple of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Sonnets LXXXI-LXXXV by William Shakespeare: The same themes of earlier sections, e.g. the poet’s verse as a memorial to the beloved, are repeated here. However, Shakespeare keeps up coming up with new imagery and analogies. My favorite is in #85: I think good thoughts whilst other write good words,/And like unletter’d clerk still cry “Amen”/To every hymn that able spirit affords/In polish’d form of well-refined pen./Hearing you praised, I say “‘Tis so, ’tis true.”
  5. Principles of Psychology by William James, Chapter XXVI, heading “Will Is a Relation between the Mind and Its ‘Ideas'” to the end: I found a couple of surprises in this section. James holds that “ideas” are not independent things that float around, but that the totality of whatever is before the mind at a given moment is an “idea.” I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that view before. When he gets to the topic of freewill, he concludes that it is “insoluble on strictly psychologic grounds.” He does say that the fatalistic argument for determinism is “radically vicious,” so presumably he doesn’t favor it. He concludes with a section on the “education of the will” which seems like a kind of process of habituation.
  6. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Book I, Chapters 8-12: This section begins with a rational defense of the truth and authority of scripture, with attention being paid to both the Old and New Testaments. Calvin lays into “Fanatics” who substitute direct revelation for scripture and claim that their being guided by “the spirit” is superior to “the letter” of the scripture. Calvin holds up scripture as the authority championed by the apostles and states that it is the only sure defense against “the devil’s impositions.” A long chapter warns against attributing a visible form to God and against the dangers of idolatry, into which the “Popish Churches” often fall.

Apologies for no Project post last week. I was on track to get it published by the middle of the week, but then I came down with a flu-like illness that sidelined me for a few days. Even so, my track record over the past month has been far better than most of the last couple of years. We’re getting traction again and will see this thing through.

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Mercantilism is Dumb

I usually try to make Great Books Project posts on Mondays, but the hurricane delayed last week’s post until Wednesday, and I am in catch-up mode. In the meantime, it was easy for me to knock out this econ post.


The introductory unit of George Reisman’s study program in economics and capitalism focuses on the history of economic thought. One of the assigned readings is Book IV of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, in which Smith critiques mercantilists and physiocrats.

As longtime readers know, I have already read and commented on Book IV as part of the Great Books Project. To check this reading off my list, I’m simply going to link back to the posts from a few years ago where I covered it:

The next reading in this series will be much more challenging, so I don’t feel bad about coasting on this one.

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Napoleon Blows Things Up

This past week’s readings included many explosions and attempts to immanentize the eschaton. I expect more of the same this week. Let’s begin.

Here are the readings for the coming week:

  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Book XI, Chapters 1-19 (GBWW Vol. 51, pp. 469-499)
  2. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, Part II, Chapters 36-41 (GBWW Vol. 21, pp. 181-207)
  3. The Discourses of Epictetus, Book II, Chapters 8-9 (GBWW Vol. 11, pp. 137-140)
  4. Sonnets LXXXI-LXXXVI by William Shakespeare (GBWW Vol. 25, p. 598-599)
  5. Principles of Psychology by William James, Chapter XXVI, heading “Will Is a Relation between the Mind and Its ‘Ideas'” to the end (GBWW Vol. 53, pp. 814-835)
  6. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Book I, Chapters 8-12 (GBWW Vol. 20, pp. 21-41)

We are rapidly approaching the 23,000-page mark in this reading program; I expect us to pass it next week.

Here are some observations from the last set of readings:

  1. 1200px-battle_of_borodino_1812War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Book X.19-39: The Battle of Borodino was a bloody mess. Tolstoy gives many grim details, most dramatically when Prince Andrew is hit by an exploding grenade and in the hospital scene thereafter. The most interesting contrast is between Napoleon and Kutuzov in showing Tolstoy’s philosophy. Napoleon thinks he’s in control and experiences a crisis when things don’t unfold in accordance with his plans, so he tells himself comfortable lies. Kutuzov, on the other hand, recognizes that he is not in control of anything and is only a passive instrument of some greater impersonal force. Thus he issues commands and responds to circumstances much more effectively.
  2. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, Part III, Chapters 32-35: Hobbes begins the section by arguing that scripture is the only sure guide for gleaning of the principles of Christian politics. He immediately follows that up with the declaration that only the Sovereign can declare which books are canonical; this appears to be his way of dismissing the Apocrypha. Then he argues, as in an earlier chapter, that just about every mention of “spirit” or “angel” in the Bible should be interpreted in a materialist way, e.g. when the “spirit of God” was said to be with Joseph, that just means that Joseph was wise. Appearances of angels are supernatural, but only in the sense that God supernaturally created an impression of an angel in a human being’s mind. Finally, he examines the phrase “kingdom of God” and with great creativity determines that it means a civil kingdom. Ugh.
  3. The Discourses of Epictetus, Book II, Chapters 6-7: Life is indifferent, but the use of it is not. All ways to Hades are equal, whether they be disease, disaster, or the tyrant’s sword. Don’t allow “circumstances” to dictate the quality of your life. As for divination, men employ it out of fear when instead we should approach the choices in life “without desire or aversion.”
  4. Sonnets LXXVI-LXXX by William Shakespeare: “O know, sweet love, I always write of you,/And you and love are still my argument;/So all my best is dressing old words new,/Spending again what is already spent.” After reading 80 sonnets on “you and love,” we know that Shakespeare is telling the truth here. And there’s also more in this section about the ravages of time on beauty: “Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,” etc.
  5. Principles of Psychology by William James, Chapter XXVI, heading “Ideo-motor Action” to the heading “Will Is a Relation between the Mind and Its ‘Ideas'”: James leads off this section by stating that “ideo-motor action” is when the bare idea of an action’s sensible motor effects is a sufficient mental cue for the performance of that action. For many acts, though, that idea is not a sufficient mental cue because there is a conflicting notion in the mind. (“I want to read this chapter now, but I also want to watch Netflix now.”) So the mind deliberates in a state of indecision, “that peculiar feeling of inward unrest.” James classifies decisions into five types based on the collection of evidence, the processing of reason, and sheer force of will involving a “feeling of effort.” Will can also be “explosive” when not checked by reason, scruples, etc. (This part sounds a bit like Freud’s description of the id.) The last part of this section discusses pleasure and pain as “springs of action.”
  6. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Book I, Chapters 1-7: Calvin says we need to know both God and ourselves, but that we can’t really know ourselves without knowing God first. So Book I is about the doctrine of God. Calvin believes that philosophical inquiries into God’s essence are less important than acknowledging what God does in providing us with all good things. The longest chapter in this section deals with the evidence of God’s existence in creation, which humans nevertheless repress due to their sinfulness. I think Roman Catholics can hang with Calvin right up until Chapter 7, where he unloads on the doctrine that scripture is scripture because the Church says it is. His argument is that the New Testament calls the utterances of the prophets and apostles the foundation of the Church, and that saying the Church decides what scripture is inverts that teaching.

We got through Hurricane Irma without too much fuss here in Montgomery. Forecasts led us to expect high winds, power outages, and some floods. But after the storm changed track Sunday evening to pass over more land before reaching us, we ended up with just some rain and a stiff breeze. Obviously many others in the Southeast suffered more severely. Nevertheless, all the storm-related activity delayed the post this week. I hope to be back on schedule next Monday.

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Profit, Loss, and Entrepreneurship

Week 9 of the Mises Institute’s Home Study Course in Austrian Economics includes one audio lecture and three book chapters dealing with profit, loss, and entrepreneurship.

  1. Profit, Loss, and Entrepreneurship” by Joseph Salerno: Salerno says that all action is entrepreneurship in a sense in that every action carries the possibility of psychic profit or loss. In the market economy, he distinguishes the role of entrepreneur from that of capitalist; the former makes profits or losses, whereas the latter receives interest. The same person may occupy both roles, but economically they are distinct. Salerno cites the American manufacturing of large automobiles in the years after 1973 as an entrepreneurial error leading to Japanese inroads into the domestic auto market. The entrepreneur is the residual claimant of revenue after all costs have been deducted, so his income is not known in advance. Managers are “junior partners” of entrepreneurs and cannot have negative incomes. CEOs and other corporate managers are ultimately disciplined by their firm’s stockholders. Owner-operators who finance their own businesses need to separate out their personal labor cost, interest, and any foregone rents in order to get a true picture of their profits or losses. There’s repeated reference to the question of ordinal vs. cardinal ranking in decision-making.
  2. “A Place Where Nothing Ever Happens: On the Employment of Imaginary Constructs in Economics” (Ch. 6 of Gene Callahan, Economics for Real People): This chapter is only a few pages long. Callahan distinguishes between a “plain state of rest,” which occurs regularly in markets when all potential buyers and sellers have had the opportunity to transact at the current price, and a “final state of rest,” in which the economy reaches perfect equilibrium. The latter never occurs. Plain states of rest never last because new information constantly enters markets, and people’s wants change. Nevertheless, economists can use the imaginary “final state of rest” as a tool to abstract from reality just those factors that are relevant to a given analysis.
  3. “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker: On Economic Roles and the Theory of Distribution” (Ch. 7 of Gene Callahan, Economics for Real People): Much of this chapter is spent breaking down the kinds of income each economic role receives. We saw this in Salerno’s lecture and also in Ritenour’s textbook. Entrepreneurs receive profit and loss, capitalists and landowners receive interest, and laborers receive wages. Often individuals fill multiple roles at the same time. And all of us are consumers. Consuming now or in the future is the function for which all production takes place.
  4. “From an Evenly Rotating Economy to the Real World” (Ch. 7 of Thomas Taylor, An Introduction to Austrian Economics): Much of this chapter reiterates the ideas mentioned above. However, there’s a section on the social role of profits that bears a closer look. Taylor emphasizes that the entrepreneur’s profit is only temporary because other entrepreneurs follow his example and enter the market, driving down prices and reducing those profits. The ultimate beneficiary of the system that allows these temporary profits to exist is the consumer. Profits are the result of an entrepreneur’s identification of a misallocation of resources. After that identification happens, the market’s inexorable movement toward equilibrium leads to more efficient allocation.


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More Tributes to Mises

The introductory unit of George Reisman’s study program includes about 60 pages of reading from the appendices to the 4th edition of Ludwig von Mises’s Planning for Freedom. I covered the first part of the section, Murray Rothbard’s essay “The Essential Von Mises,” in a post last week. I’ll summarize the remainder in this post.

Four short pieces round out this section:

  1. Salute to Von Mises” by Henry Hazlitt: This essay was published in Barron’s on the 21ghkkohwhl-_bo1204203200_occasion of Mises’s 92nd birthday in 1973. Hazlitt lauds Mises’s contribution to monetary theory and critique of socialism. He also scolds the Nobel committee for not granting Mises its annual prize in economics, which was still relatively new at this point. He speculates that the committee is composed of cowards to don’t wish to appear to be choosing a side in contemporary political debates and would rather award the prize to mathematical economists who write obscurely.
  2. Mises’ Private Seminar” by Gottfried Haberler: This essay was originally published by the Mont Pelerin Society in 1961 on the occasion of Mises’s 80th birthday. Haberler recounts attending the weekly seminar Mises hosted in his offices at the Vienna Chamber of Commerce during the 1920s and early 1930s. These meetings attracted top names in the social sciences then working in Austria. They took place on Friday evening, beginning with a paper on some problem in economics or sociology by one of the attendees, followed by discussion. At 10:00 everyone walked to a nearby Italian restaurant and kept up the discussion, and then the more hardy ones (always including Mises himself) went from there to a coffeehouse at 11:30 to continue the discussion until 1:00 a.m. or so. Sounds like a fun way to spend a Friday night!
  3. How Mises Changed My Mind” by Albert Hunold: Also published by the Mont Pelerin Society in 1961, this essay is a “conversion narrative” from someone who read Mises’s Liberalism in the late 1920s and then met Mises at an economics conference dominated by socialists a year or two later. Hunold was inspired to read Socialism and completely rejected the socialist worldview,
    to the consternation of his economics colleagues.
  4. AEA Citation (American Economic Review, Sept. 1969): The American Economics Association named Mises a Distinguished Fellow near the end of his life. The citation is brief, surveying his major scholarly accomplishments. It ends with this intriguing statement: “The recent movements toward decentralized planning in several Soviet-type economies add the endorsement of history to the insights at which Mises arrived almost fifty years ago.” This was in 1969, decades before the Soviet collapse provided the ultimate vindication of Mises’s arguments concerning socialist economic calculation.

Most of this material didn’t provide me with any new information about Mises, but I enjoyed the personal recollections from Haberler and Hunold. Additionally, the AEA citation was good to see because I have encountered Mises-haters who seem to think his difficulty in securing an academic post in the U.S. after 1940 is some proof of his lack of competency as an economist. But if he was a hack, why did the most prestigious organization in the profession make him a Distinguished Fellow?

Anyway, on to the next reading!


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Scientist Works Way Back to God

Big news in the Great Books Project today: we are cracking open a new volume, something we haven’t done since beginning War and Peace.

Here are the readings for the coming week:

  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Book X, Chapters 19-39 (GBWW Vol. 51, pp. 430-468)
  2. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, Part II, Chapters 32-35 (GBWW Vol. 21, pp. 165-181)
  3. The Discourses of Epictetus, Book II, Chapters 6-7 (GBWW Vol. 11, pp. 135-137)
  4. Sonnets LXXVI-LXXX by William Shakespeare (GBWW Vol. 25, p. 597-598)
  5. Principles of Psychology by William James, Chapter XXVI, heading “Ideo-motor Action” to heading “Will Is a Relation between the Mind and Its ‘Ideas'” (GBWW Vol. 53, pp. 790-814)
  6. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Book I, Chapters 1-7 (GBWW Vol. 20, pp. 1-21)

Now that we’re getting into Calvin, that leaves us with just about seven volumes still unopened out the sixty-eight we started with in 2011.

Here are some observations from the last set of readings:

  1. 3e92bc35c00820914dd4674fe3b65fb7War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Book X.1-18: Tolstoy really cuts loose here with the French invasion and its impact on his characters. Old Prince Bolkonsky dies after reconciling with Mary, who then faces unruly peasants on the estate as she attempts to evacuate. Rostov comes and bails her out, and she falls in love with him. On the macro-level, Tolstoy goes on about the craziness of the invasion and the attempted response of the Russian elites. Forces larger than anyone are at work, and no one is in control. It’s the same thing we’ve been getting hints of since the beginning, but now the philosophy is very overt.
  2. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, Part II, Chapters 27-31: This section begins with a discussion of crimes, which people commit because of “some defect of the understanding, or some error in reasoning, or some sudden force of the passions.” The sovereign punishes crimes and rewards by gift or contract those who perform service to it. Commonwealths can be weakened or destroyed either by poor institutions (usually those that give the sovereign too little power in Hobbes’s view) or “seditious doctrines” spreading in the populace. The “overmighty subject,” whether individual or corporate, is also a threat. The section’s final chapter takes a stab at natural theology (without too much success, IMO). Hobbes is winding up for the section on the Christian commonwealth.
  3. “On Dreams” by Aristotle: This treatise is the successor to “On Sleep and Sleeplessness,” which we covered here almost three years ago. Even though we dream without sense-perception, our souls “make assertion” as though sense-perception were taking place. Aristotle apparently believes that sense-organs continue to be influenced by the objects of perception even after those objects have been removed; the impressions are themselves objects of perception. By day, the senses work with the intellect and overshadow any impressions generated by the latter, but at night when the senses aren’t operating the same way, the intellect takes over and influences the sense-organs. So Aristotle thinks that the sense-organs are still working in a way during dreams.
  4. Sonnets LXXI-LXXV by William Shakespeare: Most of these have something to do with what will or ought to happen when the poet dies. He wants his lover/friend to forget about him: “I love you so that I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot if thinking on me then should make you woe.” Moreover, the world will mock, asking why the poet was worth any consideration. But the best part of the poet, his spirit, will remain with the lover/friend.
  5. Principles of Psychology by William James, Chapter XXVI, beginning to the heading “Ideo-motor Action”: This chapter is really long, and we’re only covering about the first third of it this week. James appears to classify the will as a species of desire (as distinct from a mere wish). The only direct result of the will is bodily movements. The chapter discusses the “mechanism of production” of those movements, which James believes are “secondary functions of our organisms” that must draw on a repository of the memory’s supply of ideas of involuntary movement. The “kinaesthetic idea” is all the mind needs to will the voluntary movement. James argues against others who say there must also be some feeling of “innervation” for it to work.
  6. Science and the Modern World by Alfred North Whitehead, Chapters XI-XIII: Whitehead goes there: “We require God as the Principle of Concretion.” Like Aristotle, dispassionate modern scientists can’t get around the need for God. Something outside of empiricism must hold everything together; we’ve reached “the limit of rationality.” On the “conflict between religion and science,” Whitehead points out several instances of theologians going off the rails in their scientific pronouncements, but that the scientists of the same era were usually also wrong on the same questions. Or alternatively, both theologians and scientists were correct depending on the sense in which their terms were employed. When scientific and religious doctrines clash, it’s an opportunity, not a disaster. Whitehead thinks that professionalism has become progressive for the first time, and that this presents dangers and opportunities. The 19th century turned the “struggle for existence” into a “gospel of hate” with its class conflict, nationalism, etc. We must must reject both the Gospel of Force and the Gospel of Uniformity. Give him credit for ending with a bang.

Continued prayers and well-wishing for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. If you are enjoying a holiday today for Labor Day in the U.S., I hope you will take some time to read a Great Book.

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My First Piece at the University Bookman

I have a new book review that is available online. It’s my first piece ever for the University Bookman, the review journal that Russell Kirk started and is now published by the Kirk Center in Michigan. The review covers Allen Mendenhall’s Of Boys and Bees: Lines from a Southern Lawyer. I enjoyed the book very much.

Click here for the review.

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Back to War with the Little Corporal

Last week we passed 22,500 pages of reading in the Great Books Project. We also have a new work to consider this week, something I know will be a breath of fresh air. Let’s get to it.

Here are the readings for the coming week:

  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Book X, Ch. 1-18 (GBWW Vol. 51, pp. 389-430)
  2. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, Part II, Chapters 27-31 (GBWW Vol. 21, pp. 138-164)
  3. On Dreams” by Aristotle (GBWW Vol. 7, pp. 702-706)
  4. Sonnets LXXI-LXXV by William Shakespeare (GBWW Vol. 25, p. 597)
  5. Principles of Psychology by William James, Chapter XXVI, beginning to the heading “Ideo-motor Action” (GBWW Vol. 53, pp. 767-790)
  6. Science and the Modern World by Alfred North Whitehead, Chapters XI-XIII (GBWW Vol. 55, pp. 217-234)

I did not realize it last week, but Q. 102 of the Summa was the end of a major section, so I decided to take a break from St. Thomas for at least a week or two. A short treatise by Aristotle fits the bill. Also, this week we wrap up the Whitehead work.

Here are some observations from the last set of readings:

  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Book IX: War again! Tolstoy gets more overtly philosophical in his discussion of the causes of the war between France and Russia. It’s too big to explain, Napoleon was swept along by events he thought he controlled, etc. Prince Andrew and Rostov wind up with the army again, but their views of the world are very different from what they had been back in the Austerlitz campaign, so the nature of their musings is more interesting to read. Rostov relives the wolf hunt at the front, so I guess that was part of why it received so much space in the earlier book. Meanwhile Pierre is now in love with Natasha, and Petya, just a child at the beginning of the novel, now insists on joining the hussars. Ugh.
  2. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, Part II, Chapters 24-26: After a few pages on how commonwealths are sustained by commodities and other resources, Hobbes talks about the difference between commands and counsel. The sovereign commands others and receives counsel from advisers, but he is not obliged to accept counsel from everyone. Many would-be counselors are incompetent, and others wish him harm. Most of this reading consisted of the chapter on civil laws, which Hobbes classifies in various ways. Defining “fundamental” laws as ones without which the commonwealth dies, Hobbes writes that laws outlining the sovereign’s authority and requiring subjects’ obedience are the fundamental laws. Laws dealing with disputes among subjects aren’t fundamental; they can be changed without any serious threat to the commonwealth. Anyone else liking Hobbes less and less as this goes on?
  3. adam-and-eve-in-the-earthly-paradise-2The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, Part I, Questions 97-102: The first two questions deal with the body of the pre-fall Adam. St. Thomas argues that he was immortal, but still required food. Adam and Eve still would have reproduced sexually. Then the discussion moves on to their hypothetical children in the state of innocence. They still would have required physical development, and there would have been girls as well as boys. They would have been born “in justice,” but not confirmed, still having the capacity to sin at some point. They would not have had perfect knowledge or reason at birth. The Garden of Eden was a real place intended for the habitation of humans in the state of innocence.
  4. Sonnets LXVI-LXX by William Shakespeare: There are several notes of discontent in these sonnets, beginning with #66 where the poet says he is tired of life and the world. His friend is likewise too good for this age; nature must preserve him simply as a memorial of an earlier, superior time. Nevertheless, his friend, despite his excellences, has begun to fail in moral character. In #70, though, the poet appears to retract these allegations. Weird.
  5. Principles of Psychology by William James, Chapter XXV, heading “The Subtler Emotions” to the end: James refers to the moral, intellectual, and aesthetic feelings as the “subtler” emotions. They show the existence of genuinely cerebral forms of pleasure of the sort we experience when we find a mathematical proof “pretty,” etc. But James does not think this undermines his case for the physiological basis of emotion. He thinks they may be “secondary emotions” triggered by external stimuli at one remove. Varying temperaments and capacities for imagination explain the emotional differences among people. James spends the remainder of the chapter speculating on the sources of specific emotions.
  6. Science and the Modern World by Alfred North Whitehead, Chapters VIII-X: Whitehead moves on to discuss the quantum theory and notes that for the first time science is contemplating the idea of discontinuous existence. He says science pushed philosophy out of the discussion in the modern period as philosophy turned toward the subjective while science inherited the objectivism of the ancient and medieval philosophers. William James et al moved from physiology to psychology just 17th-century physicists moved to philosophy. Both these moves upset the balance between science and philosophy. Rather than explore the Descartes-Locke-Bergson lineage, we need to go back and reexamine the idea of science as the study of the organism beginning with Leibniz. The last chapter dealt with abstractions, and I’m not sure how much of it I understood.

Prayers for all in Texas and Louisiana who are affected by Hurricane Harvey this week. Stay safe and as dry as you can. And I shudder to think of all the books that might be ruined by two feet or more of rain!

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