Ivy Leaf Program – Second Year Readings
- The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius , David R. Slavitt , et al
Anicius Manlius Boëthius, a Roman aristocrat and Neoplatonic philosopher influenced by Augustine (though probably not a Christian himself), was executed by the Ostrogothic King of Italy, Theoderic the Great, for treason in the year 524. He wrote the above work in Latin while in prison; it is considered an extraordinary piece of prison literature, and was immensely influential throughout the Western Middle Ages.
- Voltaire, Candide. (Dover Thrift Editions). The Enlightenment philosophe’s best-known work, a satirical novel about the worldly awakening of a curious young traveler; it has been listed in Martin Seymour-Smith’s book, The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written. This satirical masterpiece of 1759 epitomizes the intellectual vigor of the great Enlightement philosopher and man of the world, François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire was his pen name), as he took on established religion and a host of other
bêtes noirs of his time. It remains paradigmatic to this day.
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Perennial Classics) by Thornton Wilder
Wilder won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel in 1927, and it has proven quite influential even into our own time. It deals with the lives of five people killed in the collapse of a fictitious bridge in Peru.
- The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design by Richard Dawkins
- Evolution 0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design by Perry Marshall
The three books listed above will constitute the point of departure for a term paper of 8 to 10 pages, as we did with three books on economics in the summer of 2019. This time the focus is on the continuing controversy over the Darwinian theory of evolution. As was true in Darwin’s own time, the chief rival of his theory that a combination of natural selection and random chance led to the presently-observed variation between species was the centuries-old notion that God had designed all the forms of life known to man, “each according to its kind.” Dawkins (D.Phil., Oxford; professor emeritus of New College, Oxford) is a notable champion of neo-Darwinism, which has incorpo-rated the genetic discoveries of the 20th century; he is also an uncompromising atheist. Meyer (Ph.D., Cambridge, in history and philosophy of science; currently director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle) is one of the leading lights of the Intelligent Design movement. Marshall has a degree in Electrical (Communications) Engineering from the University of Nebraska/Lincoln, and is a very successful business consultant; his book appears to have found a way to reconcile these two quarreling theories.
- Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer
Assignment # 1: “By what authority does Isaiah claim to speak and prophesy? Be sure to quote at least 3 chapter-and-verse references to support your claim.” (400-500 words; provide exact word count.)
Assignment #2: “What moral lessons for today does the story of Job offer? Be sure to quote at least 3 chapter-and-verse references to support your position.” (400-500 words; provide exact word count.) Read the Book of RUTH, pp. 391-401. What can you infer about the laws and customs that prevailed in Bethlehem and in Moab in Ruth’s time? Give 3 specific chapter/verse references.
Assignment #3: (350-500 words): Why do you think Dante chose to write the Commedia in Italian and in the terza rima verse form? Also, why is Dante often regarded by historians, together with the painter Giotto, as a gateway figure to the Italian Renaissance?
Assigment #4: (250-300 words): Give and develop from the text of Dante’s De vulgari eloquentia [source text will be provided in class] three examples based on philosophy, and three from theology. Citations should come from Chapters I-XIX of Book I.
Assignment #5: (300-400 words): Identify what you believe to be the three strongest arguments in Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (Page references, please.) Discuss.
Assignment #6: (300-400 words): In what ways do you think Wollstonecraft influenced the 1848 Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments [source text will be provided in class]. Be specific!
- NIV Study Bible, Hardcover, Red Letter Edition by Zondervan
The Bible, comprising both the Old and New Testaments, was completed in its original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek by early in the second century A.D. In one version or another, it is at the core of both the Jewish and the Christian faiths. To the Founders of the American Republic, it was the one text that informed their lives, shaped their understanding, and drove their hopes for the new nation. The particular edition I have selected for both the first and the second sessions combines a scholarly and widely-accepted translation with a generous range of study aids.
- The Divine Comedy (The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso) by Dante Alighieri and John Ciardi
This selection, in John Ciardi’s superb translation, is the first third of the ico- nic Florentine poet’s magnificent Commedia, his greatest work. Of Dante himself it has been said, “Whether as poet or as man, as prophet or as philosopher, as mirror of his world or as image of the world then in birth, [he] has more to say to us than any other person of his age.”
- Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (Dover Thrift Editions
Decades before the great feminist labors of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the United States, this pioneering work planted important seeds in the soil of Human Rights. This brief text has been both hailed and reviled as essential to grasping the priorities and aspirations of the feminists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is a powerful, closely reasoned Enlightenment manifesto.
Six (6) assignments are listed below, due on each meet.
- Identify by chapter and verse FIVE specific aspects of JOHN’s characterization of Jesus in his gospel account. How do you think his characterization may have furthered the development of “high Christology” over the first four centuries of Christian doctrine? (400-500 words)
- Specify in Paul’s letter to the ROMANS how he seems to regard God’s attitude toward Jews and gentiles (at least THREE references). (300-400 words)
- From Drake’s translation of Galileo’s Dialogue concerning the Two Chief World Systems, read pp. 9-319 (= First and Second Days): Identify THREE rational arguments in the speeches of Salviati and Sagredo which seem to decisively refute the assertions of Simplicio. Why do you find these arguments persuasive? (300-400 words)
- From the same text, read pp. 321-539 (= Third and Fourth Days): Identify THREE FURTHER arguments … (as above). Why … (as above). Conclude your essay with your thoughts on why Galileo is often viewed as the “Father of Modern Science.” (400-500 words)
- John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty offers a wide sampling of his opinions. Give THREE examples of these with which you either disagree or agree; develop your own views of these topics with clarity and specificity. (300-400 words)
- Describe your reactions to Leonard Reed’s essay, “I, Pencil.” Be sure to provide at least THREE specific quotations in this connection. (Text will be furnished in class.) (300-400 words)
- NIV Study Bible, Hardcover, Red Letter Edition by Zondervan
(See commentary above on the Bible.) While scholars unanimously agree in declaring John the last-written of the four canonical gospels, it is also the most spiritual in tone, as well as conveying a distinctively intimate knowledge of important aspects of the life of Jesus and of his cosmic identity. Acts, written by Luke, the “beloved physician,” uniquely details the story of the first Christian communities, and of the second most important figure in the entire history of the new faith, Paul the Apostle.
- Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernicanby Galileo Galilei , Stillman Drake, et al.
Galileo was central in the drama of the Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth into the eighteenth centuries. This book, initially published under license of the Catholic Church in 1632, was to be banned a year later, after the Inquisition had deemed its author “vehemently suspect” of heresy. Its effect was to prove catalytic, as it destroyed the credibility of geocentrism in the Western
- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty. (Dover Thrift Editions) . Mill, like Locke, was a formidable champion of liberty, but also a man of his own time and place, a Victorian political and social philosopher. This tract, published in 1859 (the same year as Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species), quickly became a kind of manual of what would later be termed “Classical Liberalism.” Mill was unquestionably one of the most important nineteenth-century British philosophers, and is also acknowledged as a major apologist for British imperialism.
Sun. May 3: ”Night, fog, smoke, thunder and lightning often provide the physical setting of Macbeth. What dramatic purposes do they serve? (Give min. 3 examples, cited by act.scene.line numbers; 250-400 words.)
Sun. May 10: (Text: Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind: 1990 Vintage International paperback.) Milosz introduces a term, “The Method.” What does he mean by this, and what is his attitude toward it? Min. 3 examples.
Sun., May 17. NO ESSAY. Continued examination of the work of Milosz, with reference to others (Koestler, Orwell….)
Sun., May 24: (Text: Saint Augustine, Confessions: Oxford World Classics paperback, 2008 reissue; trans. Henry Chadwick.) Augustine was, to the best of our knowledge today, the first Western author of an autobiography. Identify three ways In which this work compares to, or contrasts with, any other autobiography you have read.
Sun., May 31: NO ESSAY required, but be prepared to discuss in class several episodes described in the Confessions, and to reflect upon our work together in this seminar.
- The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Macbeth, also called “the Scottish play,” well represents the theatrical genre of tragedy (cf. Sophocles’ Antigone in our first-year curriculum). The towering figure of “Shakespeare” is acclaimed in every literary canon as preeminent among the world’s writers. (My reason for placing quotation marks around the name will be disclosed when we reach this point in our time together.)
- The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz
Miłosz, a Polish intellectual and government official after World War II, experienced both Nazism and Soviet Communism at first hand. This book, written in France shortly after he defected there in 1951, was first published in English in 195 It provides elegant, uncanny insights into the mindset of intellectuals seduced by Stalinism.
- Confessions (Oxford World's Classics) by Saint Augustine and Henry Chadwick
In the genre of autobiography, this early (ca. 400 A.D.) work of Late Antiquity by one of the Latin church’s most seminal and prolific philosopher-theologians provides a unique window into his evolving soul.
- June 14: Plutarch: readings from the Greek biographies: Pp. 94-112 (Solon); 171-199 (Pericles); 732-788 (Alexander); 933-949 (Demosthenes). Here is the essay prompt: “From these four Lives of celebrated Greek men of action, specify which character traits Plutarch identifies as most praiseworthy, and why.” (Give page refs., please; 300-400 words.)
- June 21: Plutarch: readings from the Roman biographies: Pp. 379-396 (Marcus Cato); 676-728 (Pompey); 781-817 (Caesar); 950-976 (Cicero). Here is the essay prompt: “Which characteristics, both good and bad, of these four distinguished Romans does Plutarch emphasize in his biographies?” (Give page refs., please; 300-400 words.)
- June 28: Thomas More, Utopia: Entire book Here is the essay prompt: “Where do you find in the text of More’s Utopia any indication that he did not intend that his description of this ‘ideal’ state and society should be taken as programmatic in England (or anywhere else!)? (Again, give page refs., please; 300-400 words.) Individual assignments for next week’s work will be announced in class.
- July 5: More, Utopia, again. See boldface for previous week
- July 12: Koestler, Darkness at Noon: Entire book Here is the essay prompt: “Find several examples in Darkness at Noon of what you consider to be realism in Koestler’s Description of events, settings and personalities. How does this realism enhance the credI- bility of the story line? (Give page refs., please; 300-400 words.)
- July 19: Koestler, Darkness at Noon, again. Probably no precise assignment; we will be discussing how several other European initial sympathizers With Soviet Communism chose to abandon that allegiance.
NOTE: A possible FIFTH SESSION would begin after taking July 19 off on July 26, then continue on August 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30. Currently the Montgomery County School system is slated to open school on Monday, August 31.
- Plutarch's Lives (Volumes I and II) by Plutarch, John Dryden, et al.
As a Middle Platonist philosopher, Plutarch concerned himself with moral qualities of character. That concern is thematic throughout his celebrated and perennially influential Parallel Lives. We will examine perhaps 8-10 of the fifty biographies in this collection.
- Utopia (Translated by Gilbert Burnet with Introductions by Henry Morley and William D. Armes) by Thomas More, Henry Morley, et al.
More, an excellent Catholic scholar during the English Renaissance, also served King Henry VIII as Chancellor, in which capacity he found himself unable to support his master’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn; for that he was beheaded on London’s Tower Green. His book (1516) was intended as satire; unfortunately, many millions of lives have been wantonly sacrificed for the sake of an “ideal society” which More himself would clearly have denied was even possible.
- Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
Published in English in 1941, this novel of an Old Bolshevik’s interrogation and demise at the hands of “the Party” (a thinly-veiled allusion to Stalin), bears undeniable marks of verisimilitude. It was highly influential.