A book club...

August 26, 2016


A very good friend I haven't talked to in a few years called me following the historic flooding here in Baton Rouge to see how I was. It was fantastic to hear from him. Obviously, we had many questions for one another, but we wound up back on the same topics we've been discussing for the past fifteen years: politics and social thought. 


So, we were talking, and I brought up Baudrillard's idea of simulation/simulacra and how Plato's dialogue Sophist can be thought of in Baudrillard's framework and elsewhere. This turned into a very long phone conversation, as you can imagine. Since my pal hasn't read some of these texts and was deeply curious to know more about some of these ideas, I suggested we start getting together once a week to read some books and talk about them.


I went through my files and found several syllabuses (I refuse to use sylabi) of interest, particularly Political Theory from Plato to Moore taught by Ellis Sandoz. Sandoz is perhaps one of the most brilliant (and stubborn) people I have ever come across. We used to argue, but he welcomed it, and so did I.


Sometimes he would hold "office hours" on his back porch, and we'd stare out at the oak trees and talk about Summa TheologicaFun stuff, though we most certainly had spirited dialogues.


That said, I've been trying to come up with a reading list to form this rogue book club that starts around the 6th century BCE and runs toward the turn of modernity in terms of social thought.


Arguably, the reading list below for this period should be cut off after Fortescue, but it's a squishy thing, labeling epochs of thought. It should also include Isocrates, Plutarch, and maybe some Boccaccio for good measure. But I'm trying to curate some ideas here, not create a library of knowledge. There are many scholars that have studied the history of political/social thought, but I'm trying to rely on primary texts.


I thought maybe an online "book club" could be interesting, but I'm not sure of that yet. If you're interested in something like that, holler.


Anyway, this is what I've come up with based on coursework I've taken as an undergraduate and graduate student for readings leading up to modernity, but it is by no means exhaustive. Please feel free to comment and add more, especially on eastern thought. I emailed Michael Puett about his course on Chinese philosophy and ethics, and he gladly sent me a syllabus, but more suggested resources are always helpful.

  • Kongzi (Confucius) Analects 

  • Anaximander Fragment (boundless)

  • Unknown Inward Training: Original Tao 

  • Aspasia Fragments 

  • Thucydides The History of the Peloponnesian War

  • Plato Apology

  • Plato Symposium

  • Plato Republic

  • Plato Seventh Letter 

  • Plato Sophist 

  • Plato Statesman 

  • Plato Laws 

  • Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 

  • Aristotle Politics 

  • Aristotle Rhetoric

  • Cicero On the Commonwealth

  • Cicero On the Laws 

  • Longinus On the Sublime 

  • Plotinus The Enneads

  • Augustine De Civitate Dei 

  • de Pizan The Book of the Body Politic

  • Fortescue On the Laws and Governance of England 

  • Aquinas Summa Theologica 

  • Machiavelli The Prince 

  • Campanella La Citta del Sole: Dialogo Poetico 

  • Hooker Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity 

  • Hobbes Leviathan 

  • Locke Two Treatises of Government 

  • Montesquieu The Spirit of the Laws 

Have additions/suggestions for social/political thought around the modern turn? Leave them below!



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