Active Listening in the Great Conversation

I recently became the proud owner of the Great Books of the Western World by Britannica (1994 Edition).  I also own a set of the Harvard Classics: Five Foot Shelf of Books and the complimentary Shelf of Fiction.  The purchase prompt for each of these sets stemmed from listening to Spencer Klavan’s podcast: Young Heretics, which sadly is ending in its current format at the end of the year.  During the last two years of listening to Spencer, I learned that classic works are surprisingly more accessible than I initially assumed.  For example, before listening to Spencer, I heard from different sources how difficult Dostoyevsky is to read or how out of reach Dante is; however, I know the initial approach is the most challenging part of any classic text.  Although I do not have a classical education, and although I might misunderstand aspects of the text, I have learned there are benefits to be gleaned by reading and trying to understand at a lay level.  Here is my goal for 2023: digital devices off and analog books open.  Well, maybe not entirely off; the internet as a resource to check my understanding is a great supplement, but I intend to embark upon two journeys this coming January.  First, I will follow the Harvard Classics 15-minute daily reading guide.  Second I will begin the Great Books of the Western World 10-year reading plan.  Anyone who searches my site will see it is a digital scrapbook; fragments of undigested words litter the archives like a messy storage locker.  I contemplated removing these fragments, and cleaning the house, so to speak; however, I ultimately decided against it.  Instead, I did away with the navigation links, although the search function still exists.  Moving forward in 2023, I will require myself to provide some personal analysis or insight, at a minimum, suggesting either the author’s thesis, any takeaway, or something I find personally interesting.  

So what is on my reading list for this year?

  1. PLATO: Apology, Crito
  2. ARISTOPHANES: Clouds, Lysistrata
  3. PLATO: Republic [Book I-II]
  4. ARISTOTLE: Ethics [Book I]
  5. ARISTOTLE: Politics [Book I]
  6. PLUTARCH: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans [Lycurgus, Numa Pompilius, Lycurgus and Numa Compared, Alexander, Caesar]
  7. NEW TESTAMENT: [The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, The Acts of theApostles]
  8. ST. AUGUSTINE: Confessions [Book I-VIII]
  9. MACHIAVELLI: The Prince
  10. RABELAIS: Gargantua and Pantagruel [Book I-II]
  11. MONTAIGNE: Essays [Of Custom, and That We Should Not Easily Change a Law Received; Of Pedantry; Of the Education of Children; That It Is Folly to MeasureTruth and Error by Our Own Capacity; Of Cannibals; That the Relish of Good and Evil Depends in a Great Measure upon the Opinion We Have of Them; Upon SomeVerses of Virgil]
  12. SHAKESPEARE: Hamlet
  13. LOCKE: Concerning Civil Government [Second Essay]
  14. ROUSSEAU: The Social Contract [Book I-II]
  15. GIBBON: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [Ch. 15-16]
  16. The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, The Federalist [Numbers 1-10, 31, 47, 51, 68-71]
  17. SMITH: The Wealth of Nations [Introduction—Book I, Ch. 9]
  18. MARX-ENGELS: Manifesto of the Communist Party
  19. (**) TOCQUEVILLE – Democracy in America [Vol 1, part II ch 6-8]
  20. (**) IBSEN – The Master Builder
  21. (**) SCHRODINGER – What is Life?

Here is to 2023 and the Great Conversation that will come with it.  Best wishes, Blessings, and Cheers.

-Joseph

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