The Devil Made Them Do It

Welcome to Great Books Monday! We need some fanfare to commemorate the fact that this week we hit the 10,000-page mark in our reading program, as well as the 3,000-page mark in Imaginative Literature and the 2,500-page mark in Philosophy/Religion. Don’t you feel intelligent?

Here are the readings for the coming week:

  1. Paradise Lost by John Milton, Book X (GBWW Vol. 29, pp. 274-298)
  2. The Physics of Aristotle, Book II (GBWW Vol. 7, pp. 268-278)
  3. “English Men and Ideas” by Voltaire (GBWW Vol. 7, pp. 332-378; Letters VIII-XVII, XXIII, and XXIV of Letters on the English)
  4. The School for Scandal by Richard Sheridan, Act III (GGB Vol. 4, pp. 109-125)
  5. Definition of Number” by Bertrand Russell (GGB Vol. 9, pp. 111-117; Chapter II of Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy)
  6. The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, “Transcendental Aesthetic” (GBWW Vol. 39, pp. 23-33; begins on p. 43 of the linked PDF)

With this Russell piece, we are very close to finishing the GGB volume on mathematics!

Here are some observations from last week’s readings:

  1. paradise-lost-eve-tempted-by-serpentParadise Lost by John Milton, Book IX: Everything happens pretty quickly in this book: Satan’s entering the serpent, the deception of Eve, etc. It’s interesting how Adam knowingly chooses to sin so as not to be separated from Eve. Of course, then the recriminations start. 
  2. The Physics of Aristotle, Book I: Aristotle devotes much of this first book to refuting the proposition that all reality is one, but he does not stop there. Somehow he gets to the conclusion that reality breaks down to three substances: two contraries and a substratum. I found all this rather odd.
  3. “An Idealist’s Arraignment of the Age” by John Ruskin: This is the sort of essay that most modern readers would dismiss offhand. Seriously, when was the last time you read (or were assigned to read) anything by Ruskin? Austrians might recognize him because Ludwig von Mises takes aim at him in The Anticapitalistic Mentality. However, I’m sympathetic to some of Ruskin’s cultural concerns and admire his forceful eloquence in advancing them. 
  4. The School for Scandal by Richard Sheridan, Act II: This act is mainly character development. We clearly haven’t gotten to the really good stuff yet. The argument between Sir Peter and his wife is pretty funny.
  5. On the Sacred Disease by Hippocrates: In one of the earlier Hippocratic works, Hippocrates appeared to lend more credence to the notion of a divine source of the “sacred disease” (epilepsy), but here he insists that it stems from the same causes as all other diseases. As always, his attempts to explain the symptoms he observes seem weird to the modern reader, but he clearly is taking a rational approach.
  6. The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant: Right up front we get the hypothesis about reality conforming to our minds rather than the other way around. This is the statement I’ve seen quoted more than any other from Kant. I wonder if the people quoting it ever read past the prefaces of this work. Anyone wondering where Ludwig von Mises picked up the phrase “apodictic certainty” will find the answer here.

It got into the 50s here last night! October is one of my favorite months, even without the football. I hope your weather is pleasant as well, and that you’ll find a cool spot to peruse (slowly and deliberately) Aristotle and Kant this week.

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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1 Response to The Devil Made Them Do It

  1. Alice Jewell says:

    Milton’s version of the fall has some interesting psychological elements. Adam’s adoration of Eve and his desire to make her happy interfere with his good judgement. And Eve’s first sin leads immediately to other sins: once she opens the door to defying God’s will, more temptations arise to compound her crime. How true to life!

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