Thursday, October 16, 2008
As some might have guessed from my initial comments on yesterday's post, the in-laws have sent us to that vast playground in Central Florida, Disney World. It's Mrs. Van Horn's favorite place on earth.
I've never been, but I've heard something about standing in line, and even if that's not as bad as I think it will be, there is also the matter of how I can occupy my mind in the mornings and on the flight home.
I do have on hand the latest issue of The Objective Standard and, thanks to John Lewis's review in a past issue of TOS, Sun-tzu's Art of War. I got that at the book store in the airport when I realized that I hadn't fully grasped just how much time we might be standing in line. (Too bad I hadn't thought of that at home! I have quite a backlog of good reading there!)
And too bad Scott Powell's last installment of his First History for Adults series has just started! That means I will have only one lecture from the Ancient History course -- the first -- loaded onto my iPod. Here's a description of the course:
The Ancient Background is the final installment of the A First History for Adults program, designed to help adults learn history. It is a 20 lecture course on the history of the Ancient world, which focuses on four key stories: Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia & Persia, Greece, and Rome. The course begins with a discussion of the birth of Egyptology, and the incredible advances in our knowledge of the distant past over the past 200 years. The cyclical pattern of Ancient Egyptian history over nearly 3000 years is then examined. The relatively stable pattern of life in the land that Herodotus called "the gift of the Nile" is contrasted with the volatile developments in Babylonia over the same period. The forms of writing, architecture, religion are all compared. Then the story turns to Greece, where the progress of the various city-states (especially Athens and Sparta) is tracked, and we witness the birth of science, philosophy, and democracy. The Greco-Persian Wars are next, followed by the Peloponnesian Wars, and meteoric career of Alexander the Great. Greece, however, ultimately gives way to Rome--the ascendant power of the Western Mediterranean. The story of Rome's rise is attended by the struggle to maintain its unique government while expanding. And expand it does...at the expense of first Carthage and Greece, then Egypt, Britain, and still more people, until it encompasses the Mediterranean and much of Europe. As Rome shifts from republic to empire, its culture declines, however, rendering it susceptible to penetration by the ideas of Christianity and by barbarian hordes. The story ends with the "Fall of the Roman Empire," but also the promise of a new development. [minor edits]Powell recently blogged about Napoleon's role in helping along the scientific study of Egyptian history, the period he starts with in this course.
As far as Napoleon is concerned, many would rather dismiss his contribution. Some interpret the scholarly dimension of his expedition as nothing more than a ploy to sway public opinion or a device for gaining political advantage. But history is not primarily concerned with moral judgment. Historical value-jugdment is an act of weighing the importance–not the goodness–of an individual or group's contribution to the fate of mankind. In this regard, one must attribute to Napoleon a unique place as a conqueror, lawgiver, transmitter of ideas–and irreplaceable contributor to a vast expansion of human knowledge.Awhile back, I enjoyed Powell's course in European History, which I followed in a similar way: By storing the lectures on my iPod and listening to them during the dead periods of some lab work I was doing in the evenings. This time, with all the back and forth travel I will be doing between Houston and Boston, I'll often be taking this course while on the plane or in the airport.
Probably far more than most, I benefit from the flexibility that the mp3 recordings of Powell's courses afford, but another benefit that you can enjoy is this: Although his class started October 8, it is not too late to join and catch up! I recommend his course, and note that he has recently added the further flexibility of payment plans to his customers.
Update: Regarding the lecture schedule, Kyle Haight writes in:
The schedule is every other week, with a few exceptions.As you can see, I'm catching up myself!
The bad news is that if you're Gus, you won't have as much cool stuff to listen to while standing in line. The good news is that if you aren't Gus, and aren't already taking Powell's course, you have even more time to sign up without missing anything else!
10-17-08: Corrected PS.