Last week after finishing the "Scots and the Modern World" book* I started on "Closing of the American Mind" (a loan from a friend) and some "Big Names in Philosophy" survey book on the discount rack at Barnes and Noble.
Most of the ideas in that little survey book are familiar, of course - reading it is more a matter of learning so that's who's credited with such and such than learning anything new. More than anything, it's interesting how much as a people we retread the same ground. I remember once when I was little, asking my mother "how do I know the orange I see is the same orange you see?" ... little guessing that same question had been put to world thousands of years before my country existed. Recapitulation in mind, if not body.
I've only poked through the first a bit so far, but the latter is fairly fast going- I'm up to the 17th century since last night.
That section is particularly interesting, because you're already starting to see the principles and modes of thought that anchored our Founders in the Revolution - the immediate precursors to the Paines and Henrys we've read about. Heck, even the "Social Contract" theory so loved (and I'd say misused) by self-styled "Progressives" over the last hundred years long predates our own nation.
That's what stands out the most I think, how much of what's crowed to the rafters as dynamic or new is anything of the sort. And the more I read, the more some of the oldest writings we have come back -
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
"Look! This is something new"?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow.
At some point, I'll feel a little more qualified to talk about the whole Western Civ thing. Not yet, despite growing up in it and four years of undergrad in the humanities. I think after these some early Victor Davis Hanson and some Howard Zinn for counterbalance. After that... Lord only knows.
Yeah, it's been a perplexing few weeks.
I want to get back to Gaelic folklore to go with the bardic/music end of things, but am also getting pushed to learn more about the Founders recently. And and and...
criminy. What I wouldn't give for another four years to do Undergrad again. Forget "youth is wasted on the young" ... education is wasted on the young. There's hardly a thing I had in classes from age 18-22 that I managed (or took advantage of) half so well as I could now.
Of course, I'll prolly say the same thing again in another ten years. Grow or die, I guess.
* neat discovery for the week for the aviation-minded who are still poking about here -
"tarmac" derives from "tarred macadam" - itself a type of gravel road named for the engineer MacAdam. The things you learn..