Thursday, August 08, 2002

I'm slowly reading Frederick Copleston, S.J.'s monumental A History of Philosophy (which means I won't get done with the five massive volumes until about 2012). It is very lucid and readable. No wonder it is a classic. A colleague reminds me that it is probably out of date, but that doesn't bother me. Plato hasn't changed that much in 40 years. What strikes me, though, is the amount of cultural literacy he expects in a semi-popular presentation intended, I assume, for undergraduates. He quotes in Greek without translating. And he often drops names of philosophers and their positions that he hasn't even treated yet, as though when he says "Against Nietzsche's so and so theory" you should already know what he is talking about. Even with my Great Books education, I'm still in the dark on some of what he presumes. My kids would probably fare better. They are more familiar Greek mythology, for instance, than I am. You name a myth and I might be able to give a vague synopsis. "Psyche and Cupid? Isn't that the one where...?" My son has taken to pronouncing words as though they were Greek. For instance, "lemonade" is le-MO-nah-dee.

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