St. John's College Reading Plan

As many of you know, I originally started my Great Books Project after being inspired by Clifton Fadiman's New Lifetime Reading Plan. While I've been steadily whittling away at many of the more modern selections, I've had a hard time trying to figure out how to attack "the classics" in any systematic way.

My prayers have been answered. Starting just as soon as my copies of The Iliad and The Odyssey (trans. Fagles) arrive, I will be following the syllabus used by students at St. Johns College, which is generously published here. Even better, my reading of Homer will be accompanied by Homeric Moments, a guide written by a professor who taught at St. John's for 40 years. I can't wait.

Science vs. Scientism

John Silber's recent article in The New Criterion is a fascinating take on the current evolution/intelligent design debate, and what it says to us about how we view humanity and its place in the world:

With regard to the literalists and the reductionists, I would say, a plague on both houses.

The literalists have no standing in universities. But what standing, we must ask, have the reductionists who claim the authority of science in areas of inquiry beyond scientific evidence or proof? I do not question their right to develop their ideas and their research as they deem best. The freedom of inquiry should not be challenged. But neither should any scientist or researcher claim an immunity from criticism. The right to err is fundamental for, as Goethe remarked, “Man must err so long as he strives.” We have, moreover, the assurance of the Council of Trent that all our institutions, including the university, retain their validity despite the failures and mistakes of our members.

We have, therefore, every right to demand of the reductionists: What is the relevance of your pronouncements that trivialize or outright deny the full range of human potentiality in the face of the demonstrable wonders of mankind? Do your claims account for or diminish the beauty of the Parthenon, the music of Bach or Mozart, the frescoes and sculptures of Michelangelo, the plays of Shakespeare, or the genius of Lincoln’s prose?

I'm as yet insufficiently well-read on the evolutionary debate to comment on Silber's allocation of fault, but I am struck by the attempt to place these questions in a much larger context and I think his effort is worth reading.