How Many Psychoanalysts Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

How many do you think it takes? (Get it?)

Here are the readings for the coming week:

  1. The Divine Comedy: Paradiso by Dante Alighieri, Cantos I-XVI (GBWW Vol. 19, pp. 90-111)
  2. In How Many Ways Appearances Exist” by Epictetus (GBWW Vol. 11, pp. 124-125; Book I Chapter 27 of the Discourses)
  3. The Annals of Tacitus, Book XIV (GBWW Vol. 14, pp. 141-157)
  4. The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, Chapter 9-10 (GBWW Vol. 57, pp. 89-116)
  5. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, Part V (GBWW Vol. 54, pp. 205-252; pp. 57-93 of the linked PDF)
  6. The Infinity of God” by St. Thomas Aquinas (GBWW Vol. 17, pp. 31-34)

This will be my first time to read the Paradiso. I know most people find it not as interesting as the other two sections (for some reason suffering is more stimulating to people), but I’m actually really excited to explore the depiction of the seven virtues.

Here are some observations from last week’s readings:

  1. Dante-beatriceThe Divine Comedy: Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri, Cantos XVII-XXXIII: Goodbye, Virgil; hello Beatrice. It had been several years since my last reading of this section, and I had forgotten how many cantos were devoted to the Garden of Eden atop the mountain. The confluence of some other things I’ve been reading this week led me to focus on the discussion on the necessity of ordered love in Canto XVII. Pace the Beatles, love is not all you need; the love must be properly directed and in correct proportion.
  2. “What Is the Law of Life” by Epictetus: Can you guess it? OK, I won’t keep you in suspense. The law of life is, “that we must act conformably to nature.” I also like the statement that the beginning of philosophy is “a man’s perception of his ruling faculty”; in other words, acknowledge your mental limitations and build up your reasoning capacity by stages.
  3. The Annals of Tacitus, Book XIII: Once again, domestic intrigue overshadows foreign wars. In this case it’s young Nero’s increasingly nasty acts that take center stage, most notably his murder of Britannicus by poison at a dinner party. We do get to see here a little bit of Seneca, who tried to mitigate Nero’s worst traits.
  4. The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, Chapters 7-8: Veblen’s theoretical Marxism shines through more clearly in these chapters than in the previous ones. He flat out states that every social phenomenon is reducible to purely material factors, and (in so many words) that the ideological superstructure never catches up with the material substructure. The leisure class retards social “progress” because it does not feel the constraints of the changing material factors, and it perpetuates outdated customs, blah blah blah. I’m sure this all sounded more persuasive a century ago.
  5. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, Part III-IV: Freud bends over backwards to deflect the accusation that his theory of dreams as wish fulfillment is a hasty generalization, and in doing so essentially makes his theory non-falsifiable. Of course you can interpret any dream as wish fulfillment if you’re clever enough, but it by no means follows that you must. Curiously enough, the night following my reading of this passage, I had a dream (unusual for me to have one I remember in the morning) that could by no means be interpreted as a fulfillment of a wish of mine in any conventional. Freud no doubt would say to me that I simply wished to prove him wrong, and therefore I dreamed what I did in an effort to fulfill my wish of proving him wrong. 
  6. Cratylus by Plato: Fortunately, I have a smattering of Greek and was able to follow the discussion about the etymology of words, placement of accents, etc. Socrates argues that names are significant and that legislators (the name-givers) should take great care in what names are assigned to things, places, and people. It’s curious that this dialogue’s namesake only participates in about one third of the discussion.

With all the traveling I’ve been doing and with the end of the semester upon us, it’s a miracle I’m anywhere close to keeping up with the reading schedule. There was a conference in Maui, and then my niece’s wedding in Nashville, and now a family vacation to Orlando. Activity is great, but there can be too much of a good thing. My day started about twenty hours ago and is just now winding down. My apologies if any of the above post is incoherent!

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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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