A Muggle in the Thirty Years War

I can’t put it off any longer. Dust off that suit of armor in your closet, because it’s time to open Cervantes.

Here are the readings for the coming week:

  1. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, Book XII (GBWW Vol. 37, pp. 246-273)*
  2. The Providence of God” by St. Thomas Aquinas (GBWW Vol. 18, pp. 127-132; Part One, Chapter 22 of Summa Theologica)
  3. The History of Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, Part I, Chapters 1-10 (GBWW Vol. 27, pp. 1-30)
  4. Science as a Vocation” by Max Weber (GBWW Vol. 58, pp. 108-113)
  5. The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin, Chapter 15-16 (GBWW Vol. 49, pp. 500-531)
  6. Objections Against the Meditations, and Replies by Rene Descartes, Sets 3-4 (GBWW Vol. 28, pp. 360-391)

*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.

I hope no one will get novel overload over the next few weeks by reading Fielding and Cervantes concurrently. Of course, Max Weber can bring anyone back down to earth.

Here are some observations from last week’s readings:

  1. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, Book XI: I came away from this book thinking tha tit was mainly filler. Who knows? Maybe Mrs. Fitzpatrick will turn out to be a significant character, but at the moment she appears to be mainly a foil to Sophia and a means to plant doubts in her mind about men in general.
  2. “The Justice and Mercy of God” by St. Thomas Aquinas: St. Thomas writes that God “gives to each what his rank deserves,” that he has distributive justice as one of his attributes. I wonder how this argument would fit into the current social-justice happening in the church. Having just sent off a book manuscript on the issue, I’m pretty interested in the idea. 
  3. Mother-CourageMother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht: For some reason I wasn’t able to get into this play. There were some good comic moments, and some powerful depictions of human suffering. However, it seemed as though Brecht didn’t really want readers/viewers to identify with any of the characters, except perhaps the mute daughter. Mother Courage herself struck me as an unsympathetic figure, particularly when played by Petunia Dursley
  4. “Alcibiades and Coriolanus Compared” by Plutarch: I was a bit surprised here to see Plutarch giving the nod to Alcibiades in some areas, mainly in that he damaged Athens less than Coriolanus damaged Rome when turning against it. The conclusion, though, was unequivocal; Alcibiades was a lesser man when it came to personal virtue. 
  5. The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin, Chapter 14: Darwin writes that bird courtship “is often a prolonged, delicate, and troublesome affair.” Nevertheless, certain species are nearly always seen in pairs, even if one of the partners was recently shot. I couldn’t help but be amused at the discussion of the aesthetic sensibilities of birds and the speculations concerning the females’ selection of male mates.
  6. Objections Against the Meditations, and Replies by Rene Descartes, Sets 1-2: The sets of objections to which Descartes replies are actual letters he received from (I assume) other philosophers or groups that had read his Meditations. I followed most of the objections and replies to them, but the arguments didn’t always proceed in the manner I expected. For example, in the proof of God’s existence, I expected Descartes to make a distinction between his own usage of “perfection” and the interlocutor’s invocation of Anselm’s “that than which nothing greater can be conceived,” but Descartes didn’t go in that direction. So maybe I still don’t understand him fully.

I’m writing from sunny Florida today, although it is actually chilly here in the Panhandle. It’s all digital books this week for me, and I have to confess I feel naked without my trusty hardcovers. We all have to make sacrifices, though! I hope that with Christmas coming up you’ll be asking Santa for some classic works or giving some to others. (I have a few recommended translations on the Recommended Resources page.)

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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