Let Us Sit upon the Ground and Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Kings

After the heaviness of Ptolemy, Aristotle, and Hegel, I figured we could lighten things up by reading a socialist. That should be good entertainment!

Here are the readings for the coming week:

  1. Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello (GBWW Vol. 59, pp. 241-276)
  2. On Precognitions” by Epictetus (GBWW Vol. 11, pp. 120-121; Book I Chapter 22 of the Discourses)
  3. The Annals of Tacitus, Book IV (GBWW Vol. 14, pp. 63-83)
  4. The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, Introduction (GBWW Vol. 57, pp. 1-9)
  5. On Floating Bodies” by Archimedes (GBWW Vol. 10, pp. 538-560)
  6. The Philosophy of Right by G.W.F. Hegel, Second Part (GBWW Vol. 43, pp. 42-57)

If you experience any shock as you make your way through this week’s readings, it’s probably because half the material comes from the twentieth century.

Here are some observations from last week’s readings:

  1. Richard_IIThe Tragedy of King Richard II by William Shakespeare: I hadn’t read this play in about fifteen years. I was impressed on this reading how Shakespeare dances around the necessity of making either Richard II or Bolingbroke a villain. Both are portrayed as imperfect, but each receives sympathetic treatment, and you do feel sorry for Richard during his deposition and murder. Bolingbroke’s “though I did wish him dead, I hate the murderer” rings a wee bit hollow at the end.
  2. The Metaphysics of Aristotle, Book XIV: The discussion of whether number is real continues here. Aristotle says no. Attributes of number exist in substances, but number does not exist independently. It might seem like a curious note on which to end the treatise, but some of Aristotle’s contemporaries had made this idea a cornerstone of their philosophical systems.
  3. The Annals of Tacitus, Book III: Again, Tacitus emphasizes Tiberius’s sliminess. The whole spectacle of Germanicus’s funeral and Piso’s trial was distinctly unedifying. Then we had the show trial of Piso’s wife. There wasn’t a sympathetic character among them.
  4. “Of Taxes” by David Hume: The fairest tax is one on consumption; the worst are arbitrary ones. Hume also makes an interesting argument against the view that all tax ultimately falls on the land.
  5. “Experimental Considerations Common to Living Things and Inorganic Bodies” by Claude Bernard: According to Bernard, “strict determinism” is the foundation of all physical science. He insists that the scientist always asks how, but never why. I assume that Bernard is not claiming that there is no why, but that when one asks it he is no longer speaking as a scientist.
  6. The Philosophy of Right by G.W.F. Hegel, First Part: Believe it or not, I found this part pretty interesting. Hegel lays out ideas on property and contract. He seems to accept the homesteading principle as self-evident. He then writes of violations of property and contract as “wrongs,” and includes brief treatments of fraud and coercion. All of this, according to him, is pre-moral.

I’ve been trying to get this post up since yesterday afternoon. Even so, I managed to make up a day on the posting schedule from last week. We’re enjoying what is probably the last stretch of cool weather before Alabama’s annual six-month swelter. Whether inside or outside, I hope you find some time to read this week!

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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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