September 2020

How did Western society arrive at its (currently) held ideas?

For example:

Around mid-2020, these kinds of questions started nagging at my brain.

So I did what anyone would do: I found the classics section of my favorite local bookstore and started to make friends with people who lived a long time ago. What they have to say they've been saying for hundreds, if not thousands of years! Which makes the old stuff incredibly interesting for at least two reasons:

  1. They're battle-tested in the best way: Time's steady work of erosion has left these works to us. Why? Why did these works remain and what "new ideas" are simply the old ones in disguise?
  2. They have a way of bringing us out of the ruts of our interpretive frameworks by our "modern age". If Socrates says something outlandish and jarring to our ears, we can't write him off as an unenlightened wretch and be done with it; there's simply more going on than we can see at present. Where does he sit in his context, and how were his ideas revolutionary? And more importantly, what is true in what he's written down? Where do I agree (with him, or any author of the great books of the past) and where do I diverge?

So I made myself a small list of greats works. Over the next few years I'll be ticking them off and, with any luck, have a better understanding of the waters I'm swimming in [1]. I'll update the list as my library grows. If you have any recommendations, email me!


Homer: IliadOdyssey

Sophocles: The Three Theban Plays

Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound

Apuleius: The Golden Ass

Plato: RepublicThe Last Days of Socrates (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo).

Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics, Physics, On the Soul, Politics, The Art of Rhetoric