On this Great Books Monday, I’m happy to announce that we’re about to pass another milestone: 1,000 pages of science and mathematics readings. I’m particularly excited about this number, even though it is the genre from which we’ve read the least, because these fields are outside my daily experience more so than the others, and approaching them has been more challenging for me.
Here are the readings for the upcoming week:
- The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (GBWW Vol. 24, pp. 406-433)
- “Fabius” by Plutarch (GBWW Vol. 13, pp. 141-154)
- “The Study of Mathematics” by Bertrand Russell (GGB Vol. 9, pp. 84-94; Chapter IV of Mysticism and Logic, and Other Essays)
- Federalist #70-74 (GBWW Vol. 40, pp. 210-222; Antifederalist responses are here)
- An Anatomical Disquisition on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals by William Harvey, Chapters XII-XVII (GBWW Vol. 26, pp. 292-304)
- Protagoras by Plato (GBWW Vol. 6, pp. 38-64)
I just realized we are reading a lot of one-shot works this week, so this is a great week to jump into the readings if you haven’t been keeping up since January. We will wrap up Harvey this week and start a few more longer works next Monday.
Here are some observations on last week’s readings:
- “The Lifted Veil” by George Eliot: I am not a Twilight fan, but I have seen the films at my wife’s behest, and apparently the heroine is immune to the mind-reading abilities of the smoldering vampire guy. Where on earth could Stephanie Meyer have gotten this idea? I have a notion after reading this story. (And even if I’m wrong, I’ll bet this post gets an unusually large number of hits because “Edward Cullen” appears in the title.) Mortimer Adler called the narrator of “The Lifted Veil” one of the most exasperating figures in English literature. The guy can see the future and read minds, and instead of making millions from his abilities and becoming world famous, he “pulls a Bartleby,” in words of one iTunes reviewer.
- “Pericles” by Plutarch: It seems odd that someone so frugal and upright in his personal life could be so extravagant when holding the reins of power. Plutarch clearly favors him, but he started the practice of buying influence with public money, so I suppose we can blame 21st-century Greece’s financial crisis on him.
- “A Letter Concerning Toleration” by John Locke: I had so many thoughts bouncing around in my head after reading this that I think I’ll do a separate blog post on it tomorrow.
- Federalist #67-69: I find it so ironic that Hamilton notes the praise accorded to the Electoral College process created by the Constitution when, as it turned out, the institution never really functioned according to the Founders’ intentions. I had to laugh at Hamilton’s assertion that the process guaranteed that no unsuitable person would ever be elected president.
- An Anatomical Disquisition on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals by William Harvey, Chapters VI-XI: “You guys are going to think I’m crazy, but I think the flow of blood is circular!” What would medicine be without this discovery? Again, I had to get past some unfamiliar diction here, but the statement of the theory and the evidence for it is straightforward enough.
- The Way Things Are (or On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius, Book VI: It seems here that Lucretius is simply doing whatever he can to come up with naturalistic explanations of dramatic phenomena that will pass the laugh test in the hopes of swaying people who have always considered these things to be acts of the gods. Most of them would be rejected by scientist today. I was expecting some stirring restatement of the central doctrine to close out the work, but instead what we got was a pile of carcasses in Athens. I could have done without that.
Still no baby as of Monday morning, but the official due date is Thursday. Perhaps I’ll be able to share a name with you next Monday. I expect, though, that I’ll make a separate announcement on the blog before then. Happy reading this week!