Where else on the internet will you read Aristotle and Nietzsche as part of the same assignment? Nowhere that I know of; that’s my Unique Selling Proposition. Let’s get to it!
Here are the readings for the coming week:
- Candide by Voltaire (GBWW Vol. 34, pp. 185-249)
- “To Flee from Sensual Pleasures at the Price of Life” by Michel de Montaigne (GBWW Vol. 23, pp. 150-151)
- The History of Animals by Aristotle, Book II (GBWW Vol. 8, pp. 19-32)
- The Histories by Tacitus, Book IV (GBWW Vol. 14, pp. 266-294)
- Elements of Chemistry by Antoine Lavoisier, Part I, Chapters 4-8 (GBWW Vol. 42, pp. 1-21)
- Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche, Preface and Part I (GBWW Vol. 43, pp. 463-474)
The last time I read Candide, I was in a youth hostel in Padua, Italy. Isn’t it strange how books can make such impressions on you? I doubt it will be quite so exciting when I read it in my own house.
Here are some observations from last week’s readings:
- A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen: Yuck. The critics were right when this first appeared. I actually had more sympathy for the blackmailer than for anyone else; that goes to show how messed up these characters are. There’s no one with whom to identify on the stage, no one to admire at any time. Realism is overrated.
- “We Should Meddle Soberly With Judging Divine Ordinances” by Michel de Montaigne: This essay cautions against interpreting temporal events as acts of divine judgment. Montaigne offers as an example a great naval victory against the Turks (I assume this is a reference to the Battle of Lepanto) which many claimed was evidence of God’s approbation of the Christian cause. He notes that there have been plenty of times where Christians were defeated in battle. There are other good examples as well in this brief work.
- The History of Animals by Aristotle, Book I: Aristotle groups Man with the animals from the beginning and classifies him with the beasts who share more of his physiological traits. This book appeared to be discussing the very basics: which kinds animals have which parts (ears, brains, etc.). Of course the word “history” in the title is a reference to research rather than to an account of past events.
- The Histories by Tacitus, Book III: Tacitus leaves even the casual reader in no doubt as to the monstrosity of this civil war. The anecdote of the soldier who killed his own father on the battlefield, recognizing him during the customary looting of the body as he lay mortally wounded, was jarring. So was the description of the burning of the Capitol, “neither defended by friends, nor spoiled by a foe.” Tacitus labels this “the most deplorable and disgraceful event” ever to happen to Rome. By the end of this book, there’s yet another emperor: Vespasian.
- Elements of Chemistry by Antoine Lavoisier, Preface and Part I, Chapters 1-3: I was a bit perplexed during the discussion of caloric in the first chapter until I decided to Google it, whereupon I learned that no one has believed in caloric theory for more than a century. That explained why I had never heard of it before! It sounded plausible enough. I liked the thought experiment in the second chapter about likely changes in the atmosphere if the temperature of the earth were altered drastically.
- Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza, Part V: To be honest, I’m ready to leave this work behind. Here Spinoza asserts that self-knowledge is equivalent to loving God, and that in fact no one can hate God. At least he concedes that the mind has an eternal quality and is not destroyed along with the body. I guess I’ll take what I can get from this author.
Once again, I’ve lost ground on the posting schedule. This time it’s due to the inordinate amount of time I’m having to spend building the web shell for a new online course that began on Monday. I’ve spent at least fifteen hours on it this week and will probably need to do the same next week. However, I’m really going to try to make my next post before I leave town next Thursday.