ST. AUGUSTINE: Confessions [Book IX-XIII]

I read Books I-VIII of St. Augustine’s Confessions more than one year ago in June of 2013. The first eight Books recounted Augustine’s transformation from an immoral youth to a pious man. At the end of Book VIII, Augustine fully embraces the Christian religion after receiving a vision in a garden. Continue reading ST. AUGUSTINE: Confessions [Book IX-XIII]

ARISTOTLE: Metaphysics [Book I, Ch. 1-2; Book IV; Book VI, Ch. 1; Book XI, Ch. 1-4]

In this reading selection from Metaphysics, Aristotle discusses the study of “being qua being” or being as being. To elucidate this concept, consider a natural scientist and a mathematician. Both of these men study an aspect of being – the natural scientist studies being qua movable (i.e. beings as things that are subject to change) and the mathematician studies being qua measurable (i.e. beings as subject to measure). Similarly, the philosopher studies an aspect of being – i.e. being. This aspect can also be termed ‘substance.’ Aristotle believes that substance is eternal, immutable, immaterial, and fundamental. Therefore, the study of being qua being will be concerned with the first principles and causes of all things. Continue reading ARISTOTLE: Metaphysics [Book I, Ch. 1-2; Book IV; Book VI, Ch. 1; Book XI, Ch. 1-4]

ARISTOTLE: Physics [Book IV, Ch. 1-5, 10-14]

In this selection from Physics, Aristotle discusses the nature of place and time. He defines place as an immobile container. Everything exists within a place. That which is in no place is nothing. Place, therefore, is the first thing of all creation; for bodies need place to exist, yet place does not require bodies to exist. The presentation of the various arguments against the existence of place and Aristotle’s refutations were tedious. This is the type of caviling that causes many people to conclude that philosophy is a trivial study concerned only with the most irrelevant considerations. Continue reading ARISTOTLE: Physics [Book IV, Ch. 1-5, 10-14]

PLATO: Theaetetus

In the Theaetetus, Plato investigates the nature of knowledge. The interlocutors of this dialogue are Socrates and two mathematicians – Theaetetus and Theodorus. Theaetetus tells Socrates that the various arts and sciences – geometry, astronomy, the art of cobbling, etc. – constitute knowledge. Socrates refutes Theaetetus’ argument by demonstrating that Theaetetus has merely provided examples of knowledge. If Socrates asked, “What is color?” and Theaetetus replied, “Color is red, blue, orange, etc.” his answer is clearly inadequate. Socrates seeks a precise definition of what these various types of knowledge have in common. Continue reading PLATO: Theaetetus

PLATO: The Republic [Books VI-VII]

In Book VI, Plato explains why people reproach philosophers as useless and evil. He argues that society is like a ship with a violent crew. The sailors all violently vie with one another to be captain of the ship, though all of them, but one, possess no knowledge of navigation. The one member of the crew that does possess such wisdom is considered a “star-gazer,” which is a clever use of the term. I am surprised that it translates so well into English. In other words, the most qualified individual to govern the state/ship is considered useless by his fellows because they are ignorant of the art of navigation/statesmanship. This is a useful metaphor that explains why people consider some philosophers to be useless. With regards to the philosophers considered evil, Plato simply dismisses them as pretenders. Continue reading PLATO: The Republic [Books VI-VII]

EURIPIDES: The Bacchantes

In the Bacchantes, Euripides relates the tale of Dionysus’ revenge on the people of Thebes. Dionysus is the Greek god of wine, theater, and ecstasy. The people of Thebes refuse to acknowledge this new god of the Greek pantheon. In retaliation, Dionysus drives the women of the town mad, sending them into the surrounding forests to dance and perform rites associated with the cult of Dionysus. King Pentheus abhors the women’s behavior, and wishes to put an end to their revelry. Dionysus persuades Pentheus to disguise himself as a woman so that he can spy on the mysterious rites. Pentheus’ mother Agave and the other woman discover Pentheus, who appears to them as a wild lion because Dionysus has concealed Pentheus’ true identity from them. The women tear Pentheus apart with their hands. Agave returns to Thebes with Pentheus’ head on a stake. The play ends when her wits return to her, and she realizes that she has killed her son. Continue reading EURIPIDES: The Bacchantes

EURIPIDES: Trojan Women

In the Trojan Women, Euripides describes the aftermath of the Trojan War. The play opens with Poseidon grieving over his beloved city of Troy, which the Greeks have conquered. Athena appears, and implores Poseidon to aid her in bringing woe to the Greeks during their voyage home. Though she helped the Greeks defeat Troy, they incurred her wrath by profaning her temple. Poseidon agrees, and the gods exit. The remainder of the play is concerned with the griefs of the vanquished women of Troy as they mourn the loss of their loved ones and lament their fate as slaves to the victorious Greeks. In a particularly disturbing scene, Greek messengers tear Astyanax – the baby boy of the slain Trojan hero Hector– away from his mother Andromache, and cast him from the walls of Troy to his death. Continue reading EURIPIDES: Trojan Women