Great Books and Questions | Trimester 09

SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS | SUMMA THEOLOGICA (PART I, QQ 1-13)

DANTE | THE DIVINE COMEDY (PURGATORIO)

SHAKESPEARE | THE COMDEY OF ERRORS; THE TAMING OF THE SHREW; AS YOU LIKE IT; TWELFTH NIGHT

SPINOZA | ETHICS (PART I)

MILTON | SAMSON AGONISTES

PASCAL | THE PROVINCIAL LETTERS

LOCKE | AN ESSAY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING (BOOK IV)

GIBBON | THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (CHAPTERS 1-5, GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN THE WEST)

KANT | THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON (TRANSCENDENTAL DIALECTIC)

HEGEL | THE PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY (INTRODUCTION)

KIERKEGAARD | FEAR AND TREMBLING

  1. Consider the opening lines of Kierkegaard's preface to his work: "Not just in commerce but in the world of ideas too our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale. Everything can be had so dirt cheap that one begins to wonder whether in the end anyone will want to make a bid." These words were penned in 1843. Are they still true of our world today?

  2. In my reading of this work, I was arrested by the image of Abraham's clenched and shuddering left hand. Kierkegaard writes, "Yet Abraham made everything ready for the sacrifice, calmly and quietly, but as he turned away Isaac saw that Abraham's left hand was clenched in anguish, that a shudder went through his body - but Abraham drew the knife." Spend some time meditating on this image and considering the even greater expression of a perplexing kind of love: the "shuddering hands" of God the Father as His only Son, Jesus Christ died for us upon the cross.

  3. Kierkegaard writes, "Outwardly the wonder of faith is in Abraham and Sarah's being young enough for it to happen according to their expectations; in a deeper sense the wonder of faith lies in Abraham and Sarah's being young enough to wish, and in faith's having preserved their wish and through it their youthfulness." In what manner did Abraham exhibit a childlike faith?

  4. Kierkegaard has described "infinite resignation" as a prerequisite to "faith," He writes, "Infinite resignation is the last stage before faith, so that anyone who has not made this movement does not have faith; for only in infinite resignation does my eternal validity become transparent to me, and only then can there be talk of grasping existence on the strength of faith." Do you agree with Kierkegaard? Must resignation always come before faith?

  5. Kierkegaard describes the story of Abraham to require of us a "teleological suspension of the ethical." Why must our ethics be suspended? Is Kierkegaard avoiding something here?

  6. Kierkegaard describes "silence" as being "divinity's communion with the individual." How does God commune with Abraham through silence? What other examples of this do we have in Scripture? How has God communed with you through silence?

TOLSTOY | WAR AND PEACE (BOOKS IX - XV, EPILOGUES)

HUIZINGA | THE WANING OF THE MIDDLE AGES (I - X)

SHAW | SAINT JOAN

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