More Book Advice from a Nonexistent Bookstore

So, if last round was the Greatest Hits, this time’s for the album tracks and rarities—not everything here will be to everybody’s taste, some of these will be to almost nobody’s taste (well, except maybe yours, Asher), and at least a few of them should be loved by none.

Phil 2718: Intro to Augustine
William Harmless, Augustine in His Own Words, CUA Press
Allan Fitzgerald, Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia
Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography
Augustine, Confessions
Augustine, City of God (see previous list)
Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, Enchiridion, De Trinitate (either FOTC or New City, though I like FOTC’s De Doctrina translation)

And the related list:

Phil 3141: More Augustine Than You Really Needed
Jame’s O’Donnell, Augustine: Confessions, Latin text and commentary
Pierre Courcelle, Recherches sur les Confessions de Saint Augustin (yes, it’s in French, everyone assumes you’ve read it)
The Finding Augustine bibliography
Augustine, On the Manichaean Way of Life, Commentary on the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, De Trinitate, On the Good of Marriage, On Holy Virginity, On Patience, Grace and Free Will, Letters 73, 93, 118, 130, 137, 138, 151, 153, 167, 184A, 187, 211 (Rule)

The first list: Harmless is a great selection of shorter texts from all over the Augustinian corpus, including the really obscure bits, all introduced and contextualized, with the most helpful bibliography ever. While the online bibliography is far more comprehensive, Harmless has picked only the stuff you probably need to know. I’ve also included the best biography of Augustine—so that you know what the deal is with all those damn Donatists—as well as the best “go here, you’ll find the answer” guide you should have reference to for most every question. Yes, there are things that aren’t in Augustine Through the Ages, but not many; the infamous Augustinus-Lexikon will do that, when (if?) it’s finally completed. The texts included have some combination of absolute classics, the best summations of points of Augustine’s thought (or, in the case of City of God, a work that touches on ALL of his thought—it’s like the Summa, but not boring!), and rhetorical fireworks. They also get cited a lot, so there’s that. In all cases but the Confessions, you should be safe if you go with either New City or FOTC; there may be other editions out there, but 1. you risk abridgment for City of God, and it won’t be abridged in the way you want it to be; 2. the editions might not be as good; 3. look, once you get beyond Confessions and City of God, nobody but FOTC and New City is likely to have a good translation they actually put much effort and scholarship into. FOTC/NC are the Standard English Editions; the former may be a bit dated at this point, but, with the exception of the Confessions—which, I swear, was trying to sound dated then and only sounds worse now!—nothing anyone would actually want to read is that bad.

The advanced list has The New Standard Latin text of the Confessions and commentary that you should buy from my shop and finance my next vacation; the book that you need to at least say you’ve looked at, as it still kinda dictates how Augustinian studies are done; the bibliography that will let you look up what people are doing in Augustine today, to answer that one really weird question you might have about Letter 151; and philosophical/theological texts that are either cited constantly, nobody will think you’ll have read Augustine without having read (yes, I thought De Trinitate was a bit tedious in the middle, and I think the good bishop might have as well), things that anticipate later philosophers, and the letters, which are unfairly ignored, but include Augustine’s most practical and pastoral moral advice—which is not to mean “watered down.” Augustine was not an Aquinas, someone who wrote systematic treatises with occasional letters or opsculae for specific people or times, but rather a polimicist, a man who always wrote with an audience and a reason in mind. If you’re looking for his political philosophy or just war theory beyond the well-trodden City of God, look in his letters to generals and politicians. His ideas on women, marriage, and sex? Anything on holy virginity and marriage against the Peliagians, yes, but also his correspondence with Proba. On friendship, even with those who, um, could be less than friendly? Anyone who could keep writing to Jerome after getting chewed on for something that wasn’t his fault was a saint. Oh, and this list has most of the really great saintsnark, for when you need to be reminded that almost-medieval Christian philosophy isn’t high(ly soporific) Scholasticism.

Phil 1224: Aquinas
Jean-Pierre Torrell, Thomas Aquinas: The Person and His Work, Vol. 1, CUA Press
Thomas Aquinas, Selected Writings, Penguin (McInerny)
Summa Theologiae, Prologue; I, QQ 1-16, 44-49, 75-88; I.II, QQ 1-21, 49-66, 90-108; II.II, QQ on the 7 cardinal virtues and whatever subordinate ones tickle your fancy—but especially patience (136), studiousness/curiosity (166/67), and religious orders (186-89)
Summa contra Gentiles I, 1-13 and whatever else you want to look at before your eyeballs bleed
De Potentia QQ 1, 3, 7; for Q. 3, go with the CUA Press Selner-Wright translation, even over the Latin.

A good introduction to the Angelic Doctor and his philosophy, with something of a metaphysical emphasis, but not as strong as some might give you. Torrell is (very currently!) the best introduction to Thomas, his life, and his works, especially their chronology and basic outline, currently available; the second volume, Spiritual Master, is also good, focusing on Thomas’s often neglected mystical side, but it’s a bit specialized for a “general” list like this, one that I’m associating with Chapman Hall seminar rooms and tutorial essays at Blackfriars rather than Grad School Hell. The Penguin volume is as much for McInerny, a master of contemporary Thomism, as the writings themselves; the works selected should tell you something about the approach, methods, and ideas of the dominant school of thought, in addition to being a pretty decent introduction.

As for the primary readings, I tried to select a pretty broad swath of the basic points of the Summa, the most mature and easily written of Thomas’s works—yes, before you start banging your head against the desk, remember it’s an introductory textbook for seminarians who might not have the time or ability for something more rigorous or difficult. Yes, really. The SCG passages are as good a summary of Thomas’s “reconcile faith and reason” reputation as you’ll find anywhere in his work, so they get included. The DP questions—well, you know how the ST was the easy, beginner’s textbook? This is the REAL stuff, the work of the Parisian master, 15 objections, 5 sed contrae, pages of respondeo dicendem quod, and lots of headspinning and hairsplitting. It’s why Aquinas is considered one of the Greats. Even more than the ST, this is where we see the Baroque cadence and cadenza of Aquinas’s thought—if you don’t hear the music in Thomas, you’re missing out—and see exactly what the costs are of calling something “perfect.” Suffice it to say, our notions of God’s perfection are distinctly imperfect.

A note on translations: Yes, the online translations are generally fine—they’re based on the usual print ones—except for the Selner-Wright translation of DP Q 3. Unlike every other edition of Aquinas you’ll see, her translation is based on the Leonine critical edition of DP, which is still in preparation—but she got a sneak peak at Q 3. Given that the Leonine’s absolutely authoritative, trust the translation that follows it.

Phil 1274: Aquinas Overload
Roy J. Deferrari, A Lexicon of Thomas Aquinas (because you’re not really thinking about reading Thomas in translation, are you?)
Msgr. John F. Wippel, Everything on Aquinas Published by CUA Press (yes, it will all be on the test)
James F. Ross, “Aquinas’ Exemplarism; Aquinas’ Voluntarism” (it’s short, and everybody disagrees with it because it’s wrong…but everybody cites it, and it doesn’t Conform. Of course I include it!)
Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics/Metaphysics, Dumb Ox Books (or the online translations work, but Dumb Ox versions are both better and contextualize the importance these books have in modern Thomism. No, you won’t want to read all of them, unless you’re Hardcore like that)
Aquinas, De veritate
Aquinas, De aeternitate mundi
Aquinas, SCG, Book II, also ’til your eyes bleed

This here is what I called “grad school, except for the thesis.” I swear I had more than a couple flashbacks to Aquinas Hall 201 while thinking of this one. It’s really metaphysics and natural philosophy heavy, it references all the big debates that modern Thomists have to learn, and it has all of Msgr. Wippel’s summaries and guides to Thomas and his development. If you want to understand why and how strict observance Thomists think the way they do—and, before you ask why you’d want to do that, remember that the SOT’s are the intellectual sources and guides for today’s conservative public intellectual’s Catholicism—this is your guide, especially the two Aristotelian commentaries.

Phill 666: The Thesis From Hell
Me, The Least of All Possible Worlds: Aquinas on the Minimal Possible State of Affairs, somewhere in the dark bowels of Mullen Library, or, if you’re OUT OF YOUR MIND, I’ll send you the files.
Oliva Blanchette, The Perfection of the Universe According to Aquinas: A Teleological Cosmology, Penn State University Press
Gregory Doolan, Aquinas on the Divine Ideas as Exemplar Causes, CUA Press
Simo Knuutila, Modalities in Medieval Philosophy, Routledge
John Donne, “Air and Angels”
Arthur Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being (don’t worry, it’s just one chapter I take issue with)
Aquinas, De ente et essentia; Compendium theologae I, 128, 168-171—but it’s 170 and it’s reference to the “totius machina mundi” that got the whole thing started; De motu cordis; De sortibus; De iudiciis astrorum; De mixtione elementorum; Responsio ad lectorem Venetum de 36 articulis; Commentary on the Sentences II, d. 8, q. 1, a. 1-3; everything else in the lists above.

Oh Dear Lord. The Wife. My evil, satanic, life-ruining, abusive Thesiswife. The stuff of legends among the other grad students. I don’t know; they may still tell stories about it in the School of Philosophy. It about burned me out on Aquinas for life.

Now, some of these books are about the best if you’re interested in Thomas’s metaphysical cosmology and how it relates to God’s creative power and the divine ideas—which makes sense, given that’s what my thesis was about. Aquinas often says that, contrary to Lovejoy and Leibnitz, if God chooses to create the world (which He didn’t have to), he can create it any way he wants, with as many or as few things in it as He chooses. This is not the best of all possible worlds; God could have created one more or one less angel, or an angel more perfect than Lucifer, or unicorns, or left out burros, etc. However, in CT 170, he says that “these four remain,” angels, the heavenly bodies, human beings, and the elements, as they are the essential parts of the universe—which seems to imply that there is a lower limit to the kind of universe God could have created, a “least of all possible worlds.” And so, off I went, trying to figure this out, and shoehorn in as much of the analytic modal metaphysics I was actually kinda interested in along the way—oh, and figure out why the ten categories, especially habitus, (being clothed or armed, for example) is a necessary category in any possible universe.

Suffice it to say, it could have gone better.

However, the end conclusions: the four essential modes of being are not merely necessary, but constitute a kind of essence to the order  of the universe, which, while not possessing numerical unity like a creature, is unified in the way a well-ordered city is considered a whole. Each of the different parts has a function within the “whole world machine,” a function that can be associated with each of the four causes (formal—angels; efficient—heavenly bodies; material—elements; final—humans). It is not that God has a lower limit on the sort of universe He can create, but rather than any created order without these four parts is not a universe, any more than a house without walls or a roof can be called a house. Oh, and habitus, which can be defined as the way in which a rational being takes on additional, artificial capabilities and powers beyond what it has by nature through its substance, can be found in any created universe by angels assuming bodies out of air.

Most valuable source that absolutely clenched this all for me: De motu cordis, “On the Motion of the Heart,” a source I decided to quote solely to be a smartass. Nobodyand I do mean nobody, ever cites De motu cordis. Even some of the hardcore Thomists don’t know about it. It’s obscure. And yet, it’s the place where I found Thomas talking about how orders, like the universe, can have essences and be unified, right before he starts to describe how these unities work. Oh, and John Donne? Yeah, the central conceit of “Air and Angels” is based on the notion that the separate substances can take on and use bodies created from air that give them extra powers, but with which they are not substantially unified—habitus. Weird where you find clincher sources sometimes.

Phil 1308: Scotus & Ockham (in English!)
Scotus, Philosophical Writings, Hackett
Scotus, Early Oxford Lecture on Individuation
Paul Vincent Spade, Five Texts on the Medieval Problem of Universals
Ockham, Philosophical Writings, Hackett
Ockham, Quodlibital Questions 1-7
Ockham, A Letter to the Friars Minor, Cambridge
Ockham, On the Power of Emperors and Popes
Mary Beth Ingham, Scotus for Dunces
Noone & Gracia, A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages, Blackwell
The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus

So, first things first: there ain’t much Scotus at the moment (*cough*) that’s been translated into English; there are several reasons for this (making a critical edition of Scotus is an absolute pain, less interest in him than in Aquinas, translating his first draft bad Latin is a chore), but it means you have to scrounge a bit, especially for anything on, say, his ethics. Ockham’s better on several levels, and oftentimes a pretty quick read as well. Now, this list focuses mostly on metaphysics and philosophy of mind, especially the infamous “problem of universals,” but also has some logic (for which both Scotus and especially Ockham are justly famous) and, in Ockham’s case, political philosophy. Want to know why John XXII’s not really the pope (hint: he committed heresy, and so is under sentence of excommunication)? That short little treatise On the Power of Emperors and Popes will give you the delightful details.

As for the secondary sources, the Cambridge Companion and Ingham should fill in many of the gaps and lacunae (and Ingham give you some ideas on where to go next), while the magisterial Blackwell companion will let you know who the @#$% Richard of Mediavilla was and why Scotus keeps referencing him, Henry of Ghent, Godfry of Fontaines, Giles of Rome, Richard Rufus, Richard Fishacre, and lots of other people you’ve never heard of and most certainly aren’t Thomas Aquinas. I have no idea why it’s more expensive than the other books in that series, but there you have it. Ain’t scholarly publishing great, folks?

Phil 6174: Women in the History of Philosophy
Hildegard von Bingen, Scivas (Paulist Press) and Book of Divine Works (Bear and Company). I’ve heard some doubts about the Fox translation of the Divine Works, though, so Be Careful…or just see below for something better.
Heloise d’Argenteuil, in The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, Penguin
Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, Routledge
Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness, Oxford
Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of the Good
G.E.M. Anscombe, Intention, Harvard
Simone de Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity, Citadel Press

The rules for this list: everyone must be dead (no C.S.I. Jenkins); not only must there be works attributed to her, but those works must, in fact, actually have been written by her (so much for Hypatia of Alexandria); no articles or article collections (which rules out just telling you to get a subscription to Hypatia and get it over with, along with a nice chunk of Foote and Anscombe); and nothing usually considered primarily “feminist philosophy” (which cuts out Wolstoncraft and Second Sex). Why yes, I do enjoy making things even more difficult for myself than “just find some significant writings by female philosophers” would be on its own.

So we get a motley assortment of pre-Aristotelian recovery Scholastics, mystics, ultrahardcore analytic philosophers, virtue ethicists, Catholics, and Simone the Existentialist. It may also be the only list of female philosophers ever with more Catholics—heck, more abbesses—than continental philosophers. It’s also an interesting list in that there’s a fair bit of a mystical bent in a few of the writers, a nice dose of early Scholasticism from Hildegard and Heloise (which, other than Anselm and Abelard, is not really extensively studied), and quite a bit of virtue ethics, especially if you cheat and read Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy” on the side. There’s also good writing, like Heloise’s sometimes disarmingly blunt letters to Abelard or Weil’s Pascal-like prose, and, while I wouldn’t call the more analytic philosophers masterful stylists, they’re at least clear. Again, if it doesn’t make you cry, that’s a good sign.

Now, if only we could get really good translations of Hildegard…

EDIT: Ask for translations of Hildegard, and translations ye shall receive!

Phil 1453: High Medieval Political Theory
Aquinas, ST, I.II, QQ. 90-108
Boniface VIII, “Unum Sanctam”
Dante, De Monarchia, Cambridge or The Monarchia Controversy, CUA Press
Dante, Divine Comedy, Ciardi translation
Raymon Llull, Blanquerna—you read medieval Catalan, right? No? Um, there are excerpts running around under various guises somewhere, which I only know because I’ve seen them, but…
Giles of Rome, On Ecclesiastical Power, Columbia
Marsilius of Padua, Defensor Pacis (The Defender of the Peace), Cambridge
William of Ockham, A Letter to the Friars Minor
William of Ockham, On the Power of Emperors and Popes
Medieval Political Philosophy: A Sourcebook, Cornel. Old, and showing its age, but still a good source for slightly more obscure writings, as well as earlier Muslim and Jewish thought on ethics and politics.
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

This is what I was interested in as an undergrad: the development of a theory of separation of church and state in the 1300’s. This list includes those who would separate the two powers (Dante and arguably Ockham), those who would give the Pope the power of the two swords (Boniface, obviously, as well as Giles of Rome), those who would place the secular power in charge of the sacred (Marsilius Hobbes), the definitive form of natural law theory that you still see referenced in newspaper opinion columns today (Aquinas) and those who would invent really novel ways of voting we wouldn’t see until the French Enlightenment, along with other Fun Stuff (Llull, of course). Read these, and you’ll find out how to excommunicate the pope, why the pope is the successor of Paul, not Peter (not that it really matters, mind you), and how to generally cause chaos and confusion throughout all of western Europe while being chased through all of Italy by one faction or another’s armies. You’ll also get a really unique perspective on Name of the Rose, which is set at about this time, and references all the scholarly political debates and personages mentioned above—and, at one point, even summarizes my undergraduate thesis in about four pages of dialogue.

Phil/Lit 2304: Philosophical Literature, Literary Philosophy
Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy
Augustine, Confessions
Lucretius, De Rerum Natura
Dante, Paradiso
Montaigne, Essays
Pascal, Pensées
Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Camus, The Stranger
Sartre, Nausea
Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum
Mishima, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System
Anyone whose name begins with the letter “H,” NOTHING!

Some of these are works of philosophy that are great and influential classics of world literature, some of these are philosophical novels, and a few (Mishima, Wallace) are novels that have very, very strong philosophical themes if you bother looking—though Wallace likes to throw you off the track of whom he’s cribbing from. Now, a few of these can be a bit more didactic than others, and even a Dantefreak like me finds the discourses in Paradiso to be a bit much at times, but I suppose that comes with the territory of wanting to show how your philosophical views can be lived or made beautiful in poetry. Similarly, it can be a bit tricky to catch the philosophy in some of the novels, especially if you’re not familiar with existentialism (Dostoyevsky, Camus, Sartre, and Mishima), wabi-sabi aesthetics and Zen (Mishima), the semiotics of overinterpretation (Eco), or Alvin Plantinga’s modal actualism (Wallace—no, not the Wittgenstein he makes such a big deal over in the story, Plantinga).

Conspicuously missing from this list: Kierkegaard. For whatever reason, I really want to like Kierkegaard, but I can never find anything he writes that doesn’t seem (intentionally) repetitious, (intentionally) dense, and (intentionally) tedious. It’s obvious that the man can write well—every once in a while, he slips up, shows a crack in his facade of the moment, and does it!—but he just chooses not to. Maybe I’m missing out (okay, I know I am), but, much as I like reading about SK, I can’t actually get through reading him.

There are two kinds of people: those who don’t get why I put that sticker on my copy of Sein und Zeit, and those who have read it.

Phil 3533: An Exercise in Sobbing
Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
Heidegger, Being and Time
Husserl, Logical Investigations, Cartesian Meditations
Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit
Levinas, Totality and Infinity
Sartre, The Transcendence of the Ego (only minor weeping)

Think you’re a big shot who can handle any good, hard idea? Just wait until the Classics of Continental Philosophy are done with you. Long, poorly written, uses Greek and Latin terms entirely gratuitously, totally warps how you view reality, uses everyday words in strange and unfamiliar new ways, makes you view everyday activities (like, say, existing) in new and extremely complicated ways…

You’re going to beg for mercy long before the end. Sure they’ve had a profound impact in civilization and all, but is wisdom and understanding worth reading this? Probably, but make sure you have a good guide to help you when your head inevitably explodes or you Just Can’t Take It Anymore. Also, expect strange looks from people when you casually lapse into Kantspeak or Heideggerese in the middle of a conversation, since you’ve had to rewire your whole brain and your understanding of language to make heads or tails of anything you’re reading.

Phil 9112: What’s the Deal With the Unicorns?
Saul Kripke, Naming and Necessity; Reference and Existence
Alvin Plantinga, God and Other Minds
“Modal Theory” and “Natural Theology” from The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus
David K. Lewis, Counterfactuals; On the Plurality of Worlds; Philosophical Papers, Vol. II
“Possible Girls,” in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89.2 (June 2008)
Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, 
Vol. 38, no. 4 (1997), special issue on impossible worlds
David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System

Short answer: unicorns are things that could exist, but just don’t. This selection will explain why that’s a problem (short answer: there’s a very common view of language that requires a really existent something for every linguistic statement to refer to in order for it to be true; in retrospect, I think this might be letting our language drive our metaphysics, but that’s a pretty controversial thought), show off several good, not-so-good, and just plain crazy ways of trying to solve it; get into some really mind-bending and trippy stuff with that ontology of impossible worlds bit; solve problems relating to transworld identity and identification in a way that only a sad and lonely philosopher who can’t get a date would ever think of; and finish it all off with a book whose main character is half-aware she’s in a story, with the storyline creating who and what she is (which sounds a lot like Plantinga, who Wallace studied). Good and crazy stuff that will leave you with a very warped perception of the world forever.

Phil 1789: Philosophy of Law
Aquinas, ST I.II, QQ. 90-108
Locke, A Treatise of Government, once again, Hackett works
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “The Path of the Law”
H.L.A. Hart, The Concept of Law, second edition (Oxford)
John Finnis, Natural Law, Natural Rights
John Rawls, Political Liberalism
Ronald Dworkin, Law’s Empire

In general, a pretty good summary of legal texts and positions one is likely to see referenced in common discourse. Thomas, of course, is the standard Natural Law view, with Finnis representing the New Natural Law position; not to put too fine a point on it, but if you want to start a fistfight at the American Catholic Philosophical Association, make an argument that assumes New Natural Law (that the naturalistic fallacy of Hume holds, that one doesn’t necessarily need a theological or metaphysical basis to a natural law theory, that there’s a significant distinction between practical and theoretical reasoning in relation to ethics and law) and watch the feathers fly. It’s the minority position among ACPA members, of whom many have a strong antipathy to it.

Locke and Rawls represent something of a social contract viewpoint, with Rawls articulating a more evolved version. While he’s better known for A Theory of Justice, I prefer Political Liberalism myself, mostly because it explains Theory of Justice along the way, but also because its central question—relation between church and state—quickly leads into one of my pet hobbyhorses—how can we have a coherent society when many groups and people within that society have radically different background assumptions and core beliefs?

OWH, Jr. is just plain wrong, but legal realism is still, for whatever reason, a position some people (cough, Brian Leiter) espouse—probably because it justifies hiring better lawyers. The law is not just what the courts decide in a civil law country, and, as Dworkin will point out later, it’s not that in common law countries either. However, if you think your lawyer can outargue someone else’s and change the law or decision in your favor, then you’re going to be in favor of this view. A good argumentative or quasi-legislative strategy, perhaps, but not good jurisprudence or philosophy.

Hart and Dworkin represent what I think of as the rule-guided/interpretivist school. You wouldn’t ever guess it from reading anything I write, but I’m kinda interested in the role of interpretation and rule-following in dictating actions according to a canon, like, say, a code of laws. Hart’s kinda important to what I do, as is Dworkin—although I think he really overstates the role of interpretation in a way that throws his whole theory into semi-doubt. The second edition of Hart has an afterword in which he tries to deal with Dworkin’s criticisms and interpretations of his theory; I’ve been working on my own response to Dworkin using Hart, Wittgenstein, and Eco/Augustine on and off for the last, oh, not quite three years now, and might just be almost ready to talk about it. Which brings me to…

Phil 2014: Phill’s Current Research
Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (4th edition, Blackwell); On Certainty; Zettel
H.L.A. Hart, The Concept of Law
Dworkin, Law’s Empire, Justice for Hedgehogs
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
International Theological Commission, Theology Today (CUA Press)
John Searle, Speech Acts; The Construction of the Social World
Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana; Confessions
Umberto Eco, The Limits of Interpretation
Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (Vintage)
Theodore Adorno, The Culture Industry
Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture
Saul Kripke, Rules and Private Language
Lots and lots of assorted papers and other side references…

So here’s the short version of a very, very long story: lots of things we do are guided by bodies of rules, which may or may not be formally codified—language, law, and religion are just three of the biggest examples. Where these bodies and traditions come from, who gets to interpret them and under what conditions, and what happens when some of the rules aren’t exactly clear in certain instances (what Hart calls the “open texture” or penumbras of the law) is a hugely interesting and important question, especially for someone (like me) who works with books whose interpretations can, and oftentimes have been, definitively interpreted through Catholic Tradition. A full explanation of the nature and power of what interpretation can do for us is way beyond a paragraph—even describing what it can do for civil law is something I’ve had trouble cramming into a journal article!—but, not to worry, those of you who need insomnia cures should know that I really do intend to write about this thing I’ve been alluding to since I started this silly blog.

Alright, that’s quite enough for now.

There’s more I could do—good journals, books by analytic philosophers, philosophical biographies, most overrated works of philosophy, worst editions, philosophy of religion, books on philosophers, a reading list for those trying to understand political Catholicism—and things I’d like to know more about and would take recommendations on—cultural anthropology, theology, Japanese philosophy, etc.—but this post is way too long as it is. Those of you who stuck with it, thanks, and, if you’ve any questions, I’ll be here after class. Or after we close. Or whenever it is right now.


4 thoughts on “More Book Advice from a Nonexistent Bookstore

  1. Do you hear that sharp, creaking splitting sound echoing through the hills and valleys? That’s the sound of my heart breaking as I read the words “I really want to like Kierkegaard, but I can never find anything he writes that doesn’t seem (intentionally) repetitious, (intentionally) dense, and (intentionally) tedious.”

    This is the second slip up in one week from you, Mr. Melton. I was hoping never to have a repeat of the “Brahms” incident, so this (even bigger) faux pas will be duly noted in your file. We will be holding annual reviews at the end of the quarter.

  2. Just got around to reading this today. As a Hildegardian scholar, may I pipe up to say: I’m working on the better translations! I’ve already made two small selections from “Liber Divinorum Operum” (I.1 and III.3) available on my page ( , under “Teaching Documents” ). But it’s a big book, and teaching is time-consuming.

    Which is also by way of saying: get rid of the Bear and Co. edition from this list. It was translated not from the Latin but from an abridged mid-20th-cen. German translation; it cuts out huge essential chunks (like Hildegard’s hexaemeron commentary, which is key in understanding her ecclesiology, in LDO II.1.17-42; or long swathes of the mirco/macrocosmology in LDO I.2 and I.3), and it comes packaged with Matthew Fox’s, ah, peculiar “creation spirituality” in the introduction.

    • Yeah, I’ve heard some interesting things about the Bear version—and I’m glad *someone,* finally, is doing something about it. The LDO is such an important work, especially for her philosophy, that I can’t believe we’ve been stuck with the Fox for so long.

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