Monday, November 16, 2015

On the Road

I'm on the road, with spotty internet access.  So I won't be able to write much until next week at the earliest.  On the plus side, I had a good long time to sit down with the remainder of the Great Books and try to figure out what approach I should take. 
If I stuck with the original plan, I would have six years left, with 18 pieces per year.  This would leave a grand total of 108 items left to be read.  But I've hacked away and trimmed the list to either 62 or 68 pieces.  (I'm still up in the air on a few of them.)  The full 68 comprise about 5000 pages of reading.  I'll post a full list when I'm home next week.
Once I decided what I still wanted to read, the question became what order should I read them in?  The project so far has been chronological within each year.  We start with the Greeks and proceed from there.  I thought about designing the same system for either a three or four year push but I've decided against that. 
Instead, I'm going to treat the list as an ala carte menu.  There are five major categories that I want to hit each year, so I'll mix it up somewhat, but I won't be bound too hard.  If other people were reading along with me, I would want some kind of system with more advance warning.  That doesn't look like it will be a problem.

I hope you're all well!  Talk to you again soon!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


I suppose this is where I should make one of my semi-regular apologies for the lack of new posts.  (I am sorry about that.  It turns out that I didn't have much to say about Moby Dick.)  An apology of that sort, though, gives hope that new posts will be appearing at a greater rate.  And I don't know if that's true.
To be completely honest, it feels like this blog, and the project that fuels it, is at a crossroads.  I don't think this is uncommon.  When I started this, four years ago, there were three other bloggers that I quickly found that were either working through a Great Books plan or had done so recently.  One of those blogs is now shuttered and the other two have been more miss than hit over the past year.
This may be a consequence of the pieces selected for year four.  They've made it harder for me to really enjoy this.  I doubt that's it, though.
The truth is, this is a very long project.  When I started this, I was a stay at home dad who was working part time while watching an infant.  That infant is now in Kindergarten.  He has a younger brother who is three.  I'm working full time in an office.  Needless to say, the demands on my time have changed quite a bit.  I can only imagine what those demands will look like six years from now.  Somehow I doubt that I'll be less busy.
We're told not to regret things, or live in the past, but I wish I'd tackled this project in my twenties.  I had absolutely gobs of time then.  Live and learn, I guess.  (I'll pass this bit of wisdom on to my kids and see if any of them take the bait.)
Two other bits of reading have set me to wondering.  This summer when I read 'A Great Idea At the Time', I learned that there was quite a bit of disagreement about what authors should be included in the Great Books and how the reading plan should be laid out.  For the first time, I looked at what was offered with a critical eye.  I haven't stopped doing so since.
The second piece was a wonderful essay from Joseph Epstein regarding reading plans.  (I can't find it anywhere online, which is a damn shame.  I may need to just type the whole thing out and post it here.)  The essay convinced me that there are inherent flaws in a structured list.  I've come to agree with that too.
Where does that leave me?  I'm trying to decide what to do going forward.  My main options are:

  • Continue for the next six years and do the original ten year plan as described.
  • Trim that plan into something like three or four years.
  • Drop the plan entirely and move to something that I'm (currently) more excited about.
Right this minute, I'm leaning towards the middle option.  That would mean jettisoning a bunch of the science.  Skipping the German school of modern philosophy.  And not reading anything else regarding psychology or epistemology.  This would leave some large holes in my understanding of Western thought.  Frankly, those are the areas that I'm not absorbing much anyway.  (There are serious drawbacks to doing this as a solo project.  I'm absolutely awestruck by anyone that can  understand German philosophers like Kant and Hegel without some kind of group effort.)
This option would leave the Greeks and the Romans.  It would leave all of the literature and epic poems.  It would leave all of the theater (which is almost entirely Shakespeare).  I would cut out some of the remaining religious works, but not all.  And it would leave me with some feeling of control over the rest of the project.

But I'm not sure what to do.  Any comments or advice is welcome.

Links to the Past

In Defense of the Lecture (especially in Humanities) link

Marcus Aurelius from a Modern perspective link

What Shakespeare can Teach us about the Simpsons link

A Very Spooky Philosophical Halloween (Existential Comics) link

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Reading for November

One piece, the second half of a book from last November.

Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov (part 3 and 4) link