philosophy

The Daxue and Zhongyong

Richard Carroll
When reading Serious Literature for Grown-Ups, we may often feel like the Ethiopian courtier reading Isaiah, “How can I understand, if there is none to instruct me?” This can be difficult for some to admit, given the modern preference among many for coming to one’s own conclusions on things, but if we’re to grow in wisdom we need the intellectual humility to recognise that we do not and cannot know everything, especially on an early reading of a difficult text.

Foundations of Confucian Thought

Richard Carroll
A few years ago, I read and reviewed Yuri Pines’ book The Everlasting Empire, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in Chinese intellectual history, or Chinese history generally for that matter. Since I enjoyed that book, when I was looking for more work on Confucianism a while back I picked up one of his earlier books, Foundations of Confucian Thought: Intellectual Life in the Chunqiu Period, 722-453 B.C.E. Confucius and his followers did not, of course, emerge from nowhere, so a full understanding of Confucianism requires some knowledge not just of their source materials (primarily the Five Classics), but the intellectual milieu they originated in.

A Confucian View of History: The Book of Documents

Richard Carroll
Note: This is another old Thermidor article, originally published on October 6, 2017. As with the other reposts I’ve only done some light editing. When beginning a study of Confucianism, the most common starting-point is the Analects of Confucius, a reasonable choice since it’s the most easily available book of the Confucian canon as well as the book most that gives us the most material from Confucius himself. When reading it, though, one quickly realises that Confucius draws a great deal of his teaching from prior sources.

Aristotle's Poetics

Richard Carroll
Note: This is another post originally published at Thermidor Magazine, in this case on March 21, 2017. Again, I’m posting this with only minimal editing. Much of the process of moving politically Rightward consists in correcting the inadequacies of ones education. This process is most obvious in things like history or human biodiversity, but is certainly present in the arts, as well. Though a handful of books from the Western canon are still commonly covered in school, like Beowulf or The Odyssey, most curricula, even at the university level, fall far short of a comprehensive treatment.

Plato's Dialogues: Menexenus

Richard Carroll
If you’re wondering how I managed to write up another post on Plato’s dialogues so quickly after the last one, the answer is that this is Menexenus, which is both very short (twelve pages in the Bollingen Series edition), and because it’s not quite like Plato’s other work. It begins with Socrates meeting an acquaintance, Menexenus, who is on his way back from the Agora. There is to be a public funeral soon, so a speaker must be chosen for the occasion.

Plato's Dialogues: Euthydemus

Richard Carroll
I’ve been ignoring our friend Socrates lately, offering the excuse that I’m just too busy. That’s no way to treat a friend, though, so I’ve made some time to catch up with him and Plato, this time with the dialogue Euthydemus. It may not be Plato’s most insightful dialogue, but I do think it’s his most entertaining. Translator Benjamin Jowett even says that it’s “apt to be regarded by us only as an elaborate jest.

Cardinal Newman on Education and Journalism

Richard Carroll
Other obligations prevent me from writing up a full post this week, but rather than skipping a post entirely (other than the already completed lain20th series) I thought I’d turn over the blog to Bl. John Henry Newman. Below are a few excerpts from the preface to his excellent book The Idea of a University, in which he discusses the general purpose of education and, in particular in this section, contrasts it with those who have merely the appearance of an education.

Notes on Approaching the Confucian Canon

Richard Carroll
Let me begin with something of a disclaimer. Though I’ve read all but one of the Four Books and Five Classics, and even written about some of them, I don’t consider myself an expert on Confucianism by any means. So take this post with a grain of salt, and expect it to be revised in the future as I read and reflect on the subject more. I’m writing it simply because I am asked occasionally how to approach the Confucian canon, so I thought it would be helpful to have a single place to point these people to, where I lay out some basic advice based on my experience.

Plato's Dialogues: Ion

Richard Carroll
Last month we talked about Homer, so it’s good timing that Plato is now giving us a chance to talk to Homer’s greatest interpreter, Ion. Who’s Ion? He’s a rhapsode and Socrates’ interlocutor in his shortest dialogue called, well, Ion. We know he’s the greatest because he says so himself, after telling Socrates about winning a contest in Epidaurus: I judge that I, of all men, have the finest things to say on Homer, that neither Metrodorus of Lampsacus, nor Stesimbrotus of Thasos, nor Glaucon, nor anyone else who ever lived, had so many reflections, or such fine ones, to present on Homer as have I.

The Art of Dying Well

Richard Carroll
Is it time for our annual visit with St. Robert Bellarmine already? Yes it is, and this time I’d like to talk about a short book of his called The Art of Dying Well. Now, St. Robert is best known for his apologetical work, like De Laicis and De Romano Pontifice, and I’ve also covered his catechism, which serves a similar purpose for those already in the Church. He wrote The Art of Dying Well, though, near the end of his life, when he’d largely retired from public work, and it’s a much more immediately practical book than the others.