Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Running to the Finish Line

I have one goal left this summer: read three specific books. I am half way through the first. They are Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Plato's Republic, and Plotinus' Enneads.

1. Ethics - It has been about 18 years since I've last read it cover-to-cover. I was really bored by it the first time. Obviously, there was a lot I missed the first time. I am really enjoying the re-read, and picking up on so many things. Context really helps. I've been teaching Aquinas' ethics now for the third time, and it is thoroughly based upon this work. I'm seeing things in Aristotle I never noticed before.
The main reason I am reading it this summer is that I want to broaden my knowledge of Aquinas' moral theology. The central question that I am interested in is 'how does Christ make a difference to morality?' Sounds like a puerile question. If you know the answer, I'd be interested in reading what you have to say. If you read back a half-dozen posts ago, you'll figure out something of my initial answer. If I had even more time this summer, I'd read St. Thomas' Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics.

2. Republic - I first read it 20 years ago, but have read it since then at least once all the way through, and various parts of it many times, as well as innumerable essays on it. I know Plato much better than I know Aristotle. This read should go more quickly than the Ethics. I've read probably a dozen of Plato's works in the last year or two. I've avoided the Republic because I don't like politics. I like what a commentator I've recently read has to say in general: the Republic is about education, not politics. 
I'm reading it because it's next. I want to be an expert on Plato.

3. Enneads - This is going to be the real challenge to get done in the next two months. I've read chunks of it, because of the overt debt that Augustine has to him. But Plotinus is legendarily obscure, and it's by far the longest of these three works, even in the somewhat abbreviated form that it appear in the Penguin edition.
Augustine scholars recognize the influence of Plotinus on Augustine, but they are not sure whether this was directly, or via his great disciple, Porphyry. They are more in favour of the former thesis these days.
Anyone who knows anything about Plotinus knows the irony of including this bust of him. He disdained the body and wished no regard to be paid to "that prison."

Please pray for my success in this reading plan. When classes start everything gets recast.

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