Ways Of Heaven: An Introduction To Chinese Thought


I begin to see why my wife criticizes my photography

Though not stated openly, Sterckx, for the majority of the book, sets Chinese thought as a sort of rivalry between Confucianism and Mohism. You can easily see a bias towards the former, though he is not unkind towards the latter (Legalism, however, receives only a lukewarm defense).

He takes a topic and writes about the Confucian view and then (usually) Mozi’s view, with sprinklings of Legalistic and Daoist views (Buddhism doesn’t come up in detail until 3/4 of the way through the book).

Though he talks about Chinese philosophy, he is not really writing a book about Chinese philosophy. I struggled to best explain what he is doing and I settled on calling it ‘intellectual history of the elites.’ It was fascinating read and I love that he has some a long section with additional suggested reading, but it still felt just a little thin. For a thick tome, it was strangely shallow.

Shakespeare In Quarantine


This weekend would normally be the Shakespeare birthday celebration at the Folger. But, you know. Pandemic.

Tomorrow is his actual birthday, but it just makes me sad. I just don’t miss that celebration. And now. Ugh.

The things I miss. Museums, libraries, bookstores.

Tek Vengeance


I got back and forth on these Tek novels (inexplicable, save for my deep love of William Shatner, who didn’t actually write these novels). Today, I’m feeling generous towards the compulsive storytelling and decent chemistry between the middle aged, but still vigorous and athletic, Jake Cardigan, and his partner in the future world of private eyes, Sid Gomez.

What I am not down for is the revelation that Jake’s girlfriend (who he cheated on with her college friend in the last volume; did we forget that? because I didn’t forget that), is twenty-seven years old to his forty-nine. And they’ve been together for at least a year. Icky.

Letter Of Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, To Alexander Pope


If this was not so clear in the previous letter I read, Bolingbroke has studied his s—t. He has named dropped in such a way that it’s clear he’s read them well Bacon, Descartes, and Leibniz.

My understanding is that Pope turned to Bolingbroke for philosophical counsel when writing his great Essay on Man. But no one has ever accused that poem of having more than moderate philosophical value (but great poetic value). Neither does Pope’s friend, whose philosophy seems to be, at its heart, Baconian, mixed with a dose of anti-clericalism (though knowing what I know, I expect that Anglican ministers are exempt from his rhetorically flourishing vitriol). He gets in a jab at Leibniz (which he spells Leibnitz):

Leibnitz, one of the vainest and most chimerical men that ever got a name in philosophy, and who is often so unintelligible that no man ought to believe he understood himself…
Good stuff, eh?

Letter Of Henry St. John, First Viscount Bolingbroke, To Sir William Windham


Various causes have made me want to read eighteenth century English political philosophy and other causes have made it less easy than you might suppose.

But this letter I found, and though I would have rather been introduced to Bolingbroke by other works, beggars can’t be choosers, especially in a pandemic and facing the uncertain financial consequences thereof.

This letter is not political philosophy, except that his constant appeal to party (he was a Tory) is a useful thing to keep in mind. Party loyalty, above all, seems to be his excuse. Excuse for what? Siding with the Pretender and supporting to Scottish rebellion of 1715 against George I.

If it is not philosophy it is a fascinating, if presumably biased and unreliable, history of a period I am not well versed on. He wrote the letter in an attempt to win allies who might secure his pardon, which is why he frames his support for a so-called pretender to the crown in terms of service to the Tories. It all sounds pretty weird these days. And perhaps scary as we see one party maintain mostly blind loyalty to a mostly willfully blind and cruel leader.

Oh… and he ends the whole thing with an aside that basically comes down, you can’t trust Catholics, even good ones, because Popery will always lead them astray.

Reading ‘The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe’ To My Daughter


I would call it quarantine reading but we would have done it anyways. Having finished The Hobbit, an intro to Narnia seemed the next, logical step.

Now, she did not like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe half so much as The Hobbit, but that’s fair. Lewis, as a fantasist, is not half so good as Tolkien.

But I have come to deeply appreciate Lewis, overall, in recent years, and I was glad to introduce my daughter to him. We have put Prince Caspian on hold at the library, but what I really want to read to her is The Horse and His Boy, which, as a child, I might have read even more times than Wardrobe. It is, so far as I can tell, not highly respected, but I found it to be a lovely and beautiful self contained adventure.

Happy Birthday, William Wordsworth


It’s William Wordsworth’s 250th birthday. My favorite poet and here is a link my favorite poem by him: The Recluse.

I am nearly alone in loving his longer poems, I fear, but maybe you’ll still like it.

It’s also my father’s birthday. He is considerably younger.