Thu

05

Jan

2012

Western Canonical Texts - Draft List

I have decided upon a list of 54 texts.

 

Vs. the World Canonical Texts list of 36 texts, where the "Western" traditions were split into 3 (Greco-Roman, Christianity, Western) with 12 texts - accounting for 1/3 of that total list. Now with a list of 54, that would make an expanded World Canonical Text List of 150 texts (36 each East and South Asian; 24 for CWANA). Rather than a list of 48 texts (which I have considered), 54 makes it comfortably larger than the East Asian list (which including embedded texts would be a list of ~45 texts). My view of the relative proportion of the Chinese tradition has changed since the original list of 36 texts. East Asian historically definitely has more literacy and larger population vs. any of the other regions - that is not changed; what is changed is that if we are writing a canonical text list now, the fact that Western tradition (including Christianity) has spread to Africa, SE Asia, South America, together with being a background for modern education in S. Asia and even East Asia and Islamicate areas should be acknowledged. Thus vs. the Western tradition, the East Asian tradition (especially if it is just the Chinese) should be less represented (rather than being equally represented). 

 

The way I am framing the list are into 3 categories: Classical; Christian - pure; Western / Christian - General; and then sub-classify by languages of the text. 

 

Classical (13):

- Greek (9):

Literature: Homer's Illiad, Sappho's Lyrical Poetry, Sophocles' Theban Plays History: Herodotus' Histories; Thucydide's Peloponnesian Wars; Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers

Philosophy: Plato's Complete Works; Aristotle's Metaphysics; Plotinus' Enneads 

- Latin (4):

Philosophy: Cicero's On Duties

Literature: Virgil's Aeneid; Ovid's Metamorphosis

History: Livy's History of Rome

 

Christian - pure (10):

- Greek (6):

Foundational: Bible

History: Eusebius' Church History

Philosophy: Origen's On First Principles; Psuedo-Dionysius Aeropagite's Works; John of Damascus' Fountain of Wisdom; Gregory Palamas' Triads

- Latin (4):

History: Bede's English Church History

Philosophy: Augustine's On Trinity; Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica; Calvin's Institutes

 

Western / Christian - general (31):

- Latin (1): Philosophy: Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy

- Romance (10):

Literature: Dante's Commedia; Petrarch's Canzoniere; Chrietien de Troyes' Arthurian Romances; Montaigne's Essays; Hugo's Les Miserables; Cervante's Don Quixote; Camoes' Lusiads

Philosophy: Machiavelli's The Prince

History: Voltaire's Essays on Manners;  Jose de Acosta's Natural and Moral History of the Indies 

- English (11):

History: Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Philosophy: Locke's Two Treatises on Government; Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; J.S. Mill's On Liberty; William James' Pragmatism

Literature: Chaucer's Cantebury Tales; Shakespeare's Plays (First Folio); Mlton's Paradise Lost; Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads; Austen's Pride and Prejudice; Whitman's Leaves of Grass

 - German (6):

Philosophy: Kant's Critique of Pure Reason; Schleiermacher's On Christian Faith; Marx's Das Kapital; Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra

Literature: Geothe's Faust

History: Burckhardt's Civilization of Renaissance in Italy 

- Slavic (3): 

Philosophy: Solovyov's Lectures on Divine Humanity

Literature: Tolstoy's War and Peace,  Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz 

 

Some comments on this list.

> First of all, generally, the classification by genre, for philosophy in all the other lists I have included theology, mysticism, works on practical and political philosophy.

> Secondly, I have included more several author's Works or Complete Works. Say for Plato, the texts really has come down to us in Tetralogies which represent the complete works. Pseudo-Dionysius is the same way, the four main texts were passed to us as one group. While I am not as certain, Chrietian de Troyes' Romances are the same way. And lastly the same for Shakespeare in that most important plays are already published as a group in the First Folio, within a decade after Shakespeare's death. All these books can now be found bounded between two covers (true, ometimes even bigger than the Bible, but still one volume). Because of my considerations above, right now, hesitantly,  I am not including Odyssey or Aristotle's complete extant works. (And as a rule, I don't select works from the same author twice).

> On Homer, now I am putting it in as literature vs. foundational text ... not sure if this is better or worse.

> I also had a rule about not including texts that are not passed down to us in mostly complete form. But I find that I have to break this rule with History authors in Latin - clearly a category a list should include - but where the authors of highest reputations (Livy and Tacitus) we only had works in (substantial, but far from "mostly complete" form). Tacitus's reputation was based in later Europe mostly on his "republicanism" it seems, and his Annals starts where Livy ends. With these considerations, I have only included Livy, but not Tacitus.

> I included Bede's work with a little hesitation - it might be that "universal history" dominates early medieval historical writings. Both Eusebius and Bede's are important framework providers for later universal history (and so was Augustine), but their works per se were not universal histories. If it is true that the common historical dating method of A.D. was first used by Bede, then I think his inclusion is justified.

> Across the three main Christian Churches, I have only picked one "exclusive" author each (Aquinas, Calvin and Palamas) - arguably discounting the numerical ratios of Catholics vs. Protestants vs. Orthodox (roughly with current worldwide adherents of 1.2B vs. 500-600M vs. ~300M, or a ratio of 4:2:1).

> Camoes and Mickiewicz were included for the numerically significant but tradition-wise understated languages / nations (Portuguese and Polish) Mickiewicz wrote in Polish, but also revered in Belarussian and Ukraine, so it was said.

> My lists' end date was originally 1900, but with William James' Pragmatism, the end date is pushed towards 1910. If we picked Charles Peirce it would have been cleaner, but it also happened that Peirce didn't really leave us with easily accessible texts (i.e. books) other than a collection of essays which are still being edited and published. Similar considerations also argued for the inclusion of Burckhardt's History rather than Ranke, who does not really leave a canonical text generally interested public still read nowadays

> For Wordsworth and Whitman, I haven't specified which edition (from which year) their collected poems I would choose ... just not yet 

> For 19th century philosophy, I didn't include Hegel - from the sheer fact that while in 19th century he was a central figure in 20th century he seems to be mostly ignored.

> I classified Schleiermacher and Solovyov in the "Wester / Classical - General" group both for language reasons (otherwise I would need to have German and Russian in the "Christianity - Pure" category, and also while these are very theologically included philosophers, it is hard to say how they would be perceived in the future. 

 

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