A Syntopicon vol. 1 (Adler)

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Adler, Mortimer. The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon vol. 1.

I didn’t consider myself educated until I started working through this book. The program is simple: one can either read straight through multiple Great Books, and/or read through the entries in the syntopicon, gain a working understanding of the issue, and then follow up the passages at the end of the chapter. (I’ll illustrate later). Syntopical reading at its basic level is reading simultaneous books/passages about a single topic. If we go deeper, syntopical reading means interacting with what an author said about previous authors on the same topic.

The syntopical approach is what separates this volume from other anthologies. (Anthologies are about as valuable as school textbooks.)

Being, an example

Let’s take the most important philosophical concept in Western history: being. I’ll provide some brief highlights from the text and then post pictures of the reference system.

  1. With the exception of few other terms, only being is common to all kinds of things (127).
  2. A contingent being is one whose essence can be divorced from existence; a necessary being is one whose essence is identical to existence (129).
  3. Since being itself is that whereby a thing is, being belongs primarily to God and to all other things according to modes of derivation or participation.
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RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Jacob, re your signature, how would you define "constitutional monarchy"?
It allows people to participate in politics, elect representatives, etc. The monarch, though, is above politics. Whereas the "election season" frenzy aims to show how unsatisfied one ought to be, the monarch provides a focal point of unity that transcends that division. Of course, there is far more one could say about it.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Jacob, re your signature, how would you define "constitutional monarchy"?

This is from Solzhenitsyn's November 1916.

“A cautious approach to the new, a conservative sentiment, does not mean stagnation. A farsighted monarch carries out reforms–but only for those whose time is ripe. He does not go at it mindlessly, as some republican governments do, maneuvering so as not to lose power” (340).

An established line of succession saves a country from destructive rebellions. Political strife is reduced. We might respect a republican government because of Romans 13 (JBA), but we don’t actually respect it. We know they probably lied to get to office and even if they do fulfill their promises, it’s only to pay off a debt.

Persuading a monarch is no more difficult than a republican government. A republican government has to persuade the public, and that public is often at the mercy of ignorance, passion, and vested interest (341).

4) A monarchy doesn’t necessarily make slaves of the people. A commercial republic is just as likely to de-personalize them. Why is subordinating myself to a faceless electorate (and the unelected bureaucracy behind them) preferable to a monarch?

5) Solzhenitsyn faces the biggest objection to monarchy: what happens when you get an idiot? His answer is probably the best in the literature: “”The accident of birth is a vulnerable point, yes. But there are also lucky accidents. But a talented man at the head of a monarchy, what republic can compare? A monarch may be sublime, but a man elected by the majority will almost certainly be a mediocrity” (342).

Solzhenitsyn goes on to list that republican governments have their own Achillees’ heels: ambitious politicians, a morass of red tape hampering reform, etc. And his interlocutor asks a very uncomfortable question: why should we suppose equality and freedom to be preferable to honor and dignity? Maybe they are, but we rarely hear arguments to the point.
 

PeterR

Puritan Board Freshman
Sounds to me as though Solzhenitsyn is talking about a monarch with actual power. The closest our Queen (under whom Sir Roger Scruton lived) comes to real power is probably her guiding influence in having a weekly meeting with the Prime Minister. And in recent years we have had a Supreme Court, who in the last couple of years overruled the Queen's signing off a law which the Prime Minister had initiated. I felt that they should have presented reasons to the Queen as to the illegality of what had happened and humbly asked her to rescind what she had done. But no, they just overruled it and it became as though it had never happened, without any formal process so far as I could understand.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Sounds to me as though Solzhenitsyn is talking about a monarch with actual power. The closest our Queen (under whom Sir Roger Scruton lived) comes to real power is probably her guiding influence in having a weekly meeting with the Prime Minister. And in recent years we have had a Supreme Court, who in the last couple of years overruled the Queen's signing off a law which the Prime Minister had initiated. I felt that they should have presented reasons to the Queen as to the illegality of what had happened and humbly asked her to rescind what she had done. But no, they just overruled it and it became as though it had never happened, without any formal process so far as I could understand.

True. Many Americans react that monarch = absolute power. In reality, few monarchs ever had the power that courts and Fauci have today.
 

Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
@BayouHuguenot I was gifted the first three introductory volumes for Christmas. I specifically asked for them because I figured I could then use the synopticon to determine which volumes to purchase individually moving forward. Do you have any advice on how to go about that? I originally envisioned slowly accumulating them in order, but should I instead focus on obtaining the books listed under a certain topic and slowly progress through the topics? Is there any guidance in the synopticon on how to progress through the topics? I haven't read it at all at this point. It will probably be at least a year before I can actually get started.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
@BayouHuguenot I was gifted the first three introductory volumes for Christmas. I specifically asked for them because I figured I could then use the synopticon to determine which volumes to purchase individually moving forward. Do you have any advice on how to go about that? I originally envisioned slowly accumulating them in order, but should I instead focus on obtaining the books listed under a certain topic and slowly progress through the topics? Is there any guidance in the synopticon on how to progress through the topics? I haven't read it at all at this point. It will probably be at least a year before I can actually get started.

Depends on what topic you are most interested in. If you are interested in things like philosophy, being, essence, etc., then you definitely need to have the volumes by Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas. If you are more interested in politics, then you will need the ones by Montesquieu, etc.
 
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