“I Smile at Your Childish Thought”

Welcome to a very tardy Great Books post. This week we take a break from Epictetus in order to read a short treatise by Aristotle (yes, such a thing does exist).

Here are the readings for the coming week:

  1. The Divine Comedy: Paradiso by Dante Alighieri, Cantos XVII-XXXIII (GBWW Vol. 19, pp. 111-170)
  2. On Sense and the Sensible” by Aristotle (GBWW Vol. 7, pp. 673-689)
  3. The Annals of Tacitus, Book XV (GBWW Vol. 14, pp. 157-176)
  4. The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, Chapter 11 (GBWW Vol. 57, pp. 116-123)
  5. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, Part VI, Introduction and Section A (GBWW Vol. 54, pp. 252-262; pp. 93-100 of the linked PDF)
  6. The Being of God in Things” by St. Thomas Aquinas (GBWW Vol. 17, pp. 34-38)

The Dante page count is really long this time because I’m including all the endnotes for the whole work. In retrospect I should have added those pages little by little along the way, but there it is.

Here are some observations from last week’s readings:

  1. The Divine Comedy: Paradiso by Dante Alighieri, Cantos I-XVI: I find it amusing how Beatrice keeps on talking to Dante as though he has brain damage. Seeing Justinian in this section was a highlight for me. 
  2. “In How Many Ways Appearances Exist” by Epictetus: “Unless piety and your interest be in the same thing, piety cannot be maintained in any man.” Challenging assertion, that. I suppose everything hinges on how one’s interest is defined. Augustine and Aquinas can help us there. 
  3. Agrippina-MurderedThe Annals of Tacitus, Book XIV: Killing one’s stepbrother is bad enough, but here Nero does away with his mother as well, as though all the hinting around about incest wasn’t bad enough. We also see the downfall of Seneca here; the exchange between him and Nero was really interesting; both of them are excellent liars. 
  4. The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, Chapters 9-10: Veblen gets really weird here with the ethnography. I am assuming that his attempt to read the inherited traits of blondes and brunettes would be rejected out of hand by any modern scientist. Worse, he tries to build on that stuff in the following chapter about surviving examples of prowess. I admit, though, that the stuff about sports was amusing.
  5. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, Part V: Freud finally plays the Oedipus card in this chapter. Although I think he’s full of baloney in asserting “absolutely and unconditionally” that there are “no guileless dreams,” I can’t help but be diverted by his continuing references to classical mythology and literature, quoting of Shakespeare, etc.
  6. “The Infinity of God” by St. Thomas Aquinas: What I found striking about this section was St. Thomas’s frank dismissal of Aristotle’s interpretation of elements of the infinite. He essentially says, “The ancients knew a lot but they got this one wrong.” I guess he’s not afraid to put his foot down when he finds an irreconcilable conflict between the Philosopher and the Scripture.

After about six days in Florida, I’m now home for two whole weeks before I have to leave town again. Will I be able to get back on a proper posting schedule for this project and for everything else on this blog? I’m sure that’s the question everyone is dying to know. I’ll just say that I’ll do my best. In the meantime, go read some philosophy!

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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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2 Responses to “I Smile at Your Childish Thought”

  1. Alice Jewell says:

    Dante the poet enjoys showing how naive Dante the pilgrim is in his humanness. Beatrice, endowed with heavenly wisdom, is merely the conveyor of this important message, which does supply a bit of humor in this mostly unhumorus tale. Chaucer the poet likewise made fun of Chaucer the pilgrim.

  2. Dr. T says:

    I give you plenty of childish thoughts to smile at.

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