Eighteenth-Century Profanity and the Sex Lives of Crustaceans

You’d think that after completing the 16,000th page of reading in this Great Books Project, we’d have reached the halfway point of our journey. Recall, though, that this project involves more than 40,000 pages of reading, so we won’t get to the midway marker until sometime in 2014. Cheer up, though; that means more mind-expanding material ahead!

Here are the readings for the coming week:

  1. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, Book VII (GBWW Vol. 37, pp. 121-151)*
  2. Of Falsity” by St. Thomas Aquinas (GBWW Vol. 17, p. 100-104; Part One, Chapter 17 of Summa Theologica)
  3. The Life of King Henry V by William Shakespeare (GBWW Vol. 24, pp. 532-567)
  4. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Book V, Chapter 2 (GBWW Vol. 36, pp. 401-449)
  5. The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin, Chapter 10 (GBWW Vol. 49, pp. 403-421)
  6. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke, Book IV, Chapter 17 (GBWW Vol. 33, pp. 371-380)

*The volume and page references from Tom Jones are from the 1952 GBWW edition. This novel was not included in the 1990 edition and is thus “extra” reading for this project, but I’ve never read it before and want to.

Tom Hiddleston hits cinemas as Loki in the second Thor movie this weekend. Did you know that he was Prince Hal/King Henry V in last year’s BBC adaptations of these plays?

Here are some observations from last week’s readings:

  1. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, Book VI: Things look pretty grim for poor Tom at this point: his love for Sophia discovered, Blifil’s hatred for him, Allworthy’s turning him out of his home. The crowning indignity, though, was Black George’s theft of his parting gift from Allworthy. Black George, for whom Tom had sacrificed so much, turns out to be a pretty worthless character. I also learned from this book that the phrase “kiss my a**” dates at least to the 18th century. Who would have thought it?
  2. “Concerning Truth” by St. Thomas Aquinas: Reading St. Thomas’s statement that “Truth, properly speaking, is only in the intellect” was a bit of a jolt because I had just gone through Locke’s assertion that Truth is only a relation between statements in the mind a week or two ago. Of course, St. Thomas is writing of the intellect of God and His relationship to Truth, so it seems clear that he and Locke are not dealing with the concept in the same sense.
  3. The Second Part of King Henry IV by William Shakespeare: I wrote a seminar paper on this play in my doctoral program, so fifteen years ago I could have told you every tiny detail about it. This time through, I kept thinking, “I had forgotten that part . . .” Falstaff is a bit less fun in this play than he was in the previous one. With a two-week-old baby in the house, the words of King Henry in Act III resonated with me: “O gentle Sleep, / Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee / That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down / And steep my senses in forgetfulness?” Also, if you’re ever thinking about leading a political rebellion, make sure your own amnesty gets into the terms of surrender.
  4. Great Performances: The Hollow Crown - Henry IV Part TwoAn Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Book V, Chapter 1: This chapter is extremely long and covers all sorts of things Smith considers to be part of the sovereign’s responsibility. For me, the most interesting part was the discussion of the military. Smith views modern armed forces as a result of the division of labor in multiple ways. Not only are modern soldiers more specialized than the ancient warrior, who was also usually a herdsman or a farmer, but the specialized tasks of the various trades in the modern world also prevent their practitioners from developing martial skills to any appreciable extent. 
  5. The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin, Chapter 9: This chapter contains, in eight short pages, all any normal person could possibly wish to know about the sexuality of mollusks and crustaceans. That is all. 
  6. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke, Book IV, Chapter 16: No doubt by this chapter the modern empiricist has given up on the Father of Empiricism. Why, Locke avers that “the bare testimony of divine revelation is the highest certainty,” higher even than evidence of one’s own experience corroborated by that of many others. Reading this made me think with some amusement of a podcast I heard some months ago where the host claimed that Locke was an atheist.

Once again I’ve lost ground in my seemingly neverending quest to get this series of posts back to its original Monday schedule. I think I have one more week of real intensity left in this fall term before I can start making up ground again. At least the weather has gotten significantly cooler here in Alabama.

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 Eighteenth-Century Profanity and the Sex Lives of Crustaceans

  1. moira31 says:

    Re: your comment on Tom Hiddleston: Henry V was shown on PBS in NY last month (along with Richard II, Henry IV, 1 and 2). I highly recommend all of them! I cannot praise them enough. The series is known as “The Hollow Crown” (on BBC).

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