Fresh out of Guardian columns, but here’s this week’s reading nonetheless. Just wound up the new translation of Herodotus’s The Histories, by Tom Holland. It’s a fine version, although idiomatically modern in many places. But that does serve to make the text more immediate, and probably more like what the initial audience in Athens would have heard. Highly recommended, and much better than getting your Thermopylae by way of Frank Miller.
And now to the last of the Guardian weekly readings posts, with a look at Spinoza. There’s an odd resemblance to Calvin, at least in my personal pantheon, that would have horrified both of them. Each is a beautifully structured thinker, in a very admirable way, but one that I just can’t follow along with.
The particular thing about Spinoza is the recent vogue in attributing the entire foundation of the modern world to him, exemplified in a whole series of things by Jonathan Israel.
- Part 1: Philosophy as a way of life
- Part 2: Miracles and God’s will
- Part 3: What God is not
- Part 4: All there is, is God
- Part 5: On human nature
- Part 6: Understanding the emotions
- Part 7: On the ethics of the self
- Part 8: Reading the Ethics
The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
– Sun Tzu
When I started studying political philosophy in graduate school, the emphasis was on the classics and above all, Plato. Augustine, the Church Fathers, and Bonaventure only kept reinforcing this as I got farther and farther into theology. Here Mark Vernon gives a fair rundown on how Plato somehow stands across Western thinking.
- Part 1: Why Plato?
- Part 2: Who was Plato’s Socrates?
- Part 3: Philosophy as a way of life
- Part 4: What do you love?
- Part 5: Love and the perception of forms
- Part 6: The philosophical school
- Part 7: Plato and Christianity
- Part 8: A man for all seasons
Plato: a very short introduction will give you more, as will Stanford (Web), but the more important thing to grasp about any ancient philosopher is that they’re pursuing a way of life. Then you could consider the Republic or even the Complete Works in tandem with Plato’s Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues, which is one of the few texts I’ve found that covers all the dialogues.
Five Oldest Pubs in the United Kingdom - Anglotopia.net: "The Old Ferry Boat is a great example of one of the pubs that started as an inn and still operates as such today. Though no documents apparently exist of when the Inn actually began, one record stated that liquor was served there as early as 560 A.D. and the foundations are reportedly another century older."
Mind-boggling witness to some of the continuities possible in the Old World.
Law school applications are headed for a 30-year low, reflecting increased concern over soaring tuition, crushing student debt and diminishing prospects of lucrative employment upon graduation.One for my students as they contemplate the future.
Law Schools’ Applications Fall as Costs Rise and Jobs Are Cut - NYT
Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.Truth from Sinai.
Two spaces after a period: Why you should never, ever do it. - Slate Magazine
The CIA was in chaos when Tony Mendez arrived at his desk the next morning. People dashed through the halls, clutching files and papers. Desks were piling up with “flash” cables — the highest-priority messages, reserved for wartime situations.Not a caper movie, but a real movie caper.
How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans
The origin of our tendency to confirmation bias is fairly obvious. Our brains were not built to find the truth but to make pragmatic judgments, check them cheaply and win arguments, whether we are in the right or in the wrong.Matt Ridley: When Bad Theories Happen to Good Scientists
Every morning, the hangar doors roll open and the sunlight flares my electro-optical sensors. I drag myself onto the flight line, load up my pylons with Hellfire and Griffin missiles, and try to get some coffee into my tank before takeoff. If all goes well, I lumber into the air, loiter over some godforsaken warzone du jour, and occasionally lob weaponry at those I’m told are the enemies of the free world. By broad consensus, I’m pretty good at my job — and when I’m not soaring above the mountains of Afghanistan or Yemen, I even find time for hobbies, like posting on Twitter. But after I return to base, I self-medicate with extreme prejudice. Because I’m a Predator drone, and you people make me drink.Flying Under the Influence - By @Drunkenpredator
Allow me to explain.
In light of this long, long history, during which the poem has had to learn so much, adapt to so many circumstances, how could it be intimidated by the rise of electronic reading? “Why should I concern myself with bits and pixels? I remember the harried scribe with his papyrus sheets. I was once a song.”How Books Learn - Alan Jacobs
Intellectual humility will be a trait of our character when we care so much about knowing, understanding, and getting to the truth of some big question that we become oblivious of how we rank, of what we are “worth” vis-à-vis the other status-striving agents in our circle. The apostle Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” (1 Corinthians 8:1) and we might add that love of knowledge can build us up in humility.What Is It to be Intellectually Humble? | Big Questions Online
Dump the stereotypes. Dave Barry and others ask if we really believe all red state residents are dumb, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, NASCAR-obsessed, gun-fondling, Bible-bullying, redneck, sweatshop tycoons who claim government doesn’t work, and then get elected and prove it; or that all blue-state residents are godless, unpatriotic, ear-pierced, Volvo-driving, latte-sucking, tofu-chomping, tax- crazed bleeding-hearts who presume people shouldn’t have to work and beg our enemies, “Please don’t hurt me.” Seek out people with different beliefs.Valuing Diversity of Ideas
obfuscatory polysyllabic officialese
Phrase of the day!
English in the twentieth century - an overview : Oxford English Dictionary