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The Pensées (literally thoughts) is a fragmentary collection of writings prepared by the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal for a projected defence of Christianity, left unfinished at his death in 1662. The proper order of the work has been the subject of much controversy, and older public domain works may not reflect recent scholarship. Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
Resources for learning Spanish. Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Discourse on Method (French: Discours de la méthode) by René Descartes was published in French in Leiden in 1637, alongside essays on optics, meterology and geometry. It offered the an autobiographical of Descartes skeptical method and the positive metaphysical conclusions that he would later develop more fully in the Meditations. Notable among these is the first formulation of the famous 'Cogito', the principle that 'I think therefore I am' and cannot doubt my own existence. Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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Meditations on First Philosophy (Latin: Meditationes de prima philosophia, in qua Dei existentia et animae immortalitas demonstrantur) by Réne Descartes was first published in Latin in 1641, appearing in a French translation in 1647. The six meditations which make up the book describe a series of mental exercises, undertaken over consecutive days. The first meditation introduces Descartes' method of universal doubt. The second introduces the famous argument often summarised as 'I think therefore I am' (Latin: cogito ergo sum), and cannot doubt my own existence. Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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Utopia by Thomas More inaugurated a new literary genre on its first publication in Latin at Louvain, Belgium in 1516. It's title, from a Greek term meaning 'nowhere', has become the established term for any imaginary, ideal Commonwealth. More's Utopia took inspiration from the voyages of discovery of his own day, being ostensibly the account of Raphael Hythloday, a traveller with Amerigo Vespucci. Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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In Praise of Folly (Latin: Moriae Encomium or Stultitiae Laus) is an essay originally written by the great Dutch classicist Desiderius Erasmus while staying in London with Sir Thomas More, who is the subject of a punning reference in its Latin title. The work is written from the perspective of Folly herself, whose self-praise provides the vehicle for a wide-ranging satire of contemporary society. Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Oeconomicus (Greek: Οἰκονομικός) by Xenophon is a work about management of the household or oikos, the original root of our modern term, economics. The bulk of the dialogue consists of a discussion between Socrates and the wealthy farmer Ischomachus, as recounted by Socrates in a framing introduction to Critobolous, son of Crito. Ischomachus' account of his relationship with his wife and his household slaves has been a frequent topic in modern debates about Greek social attitudes. Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Georgics (Latin: Georgica) is a didactic poem by Virgil (70-19 BC) on agriculture and rural life, after the manner of Hesiod's Works and Days. Completed in 29 BC, it was his second major poem after the Eclogues. Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Metamorphoses is a a Latin narrative poem in fifteen books by Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17/18 CE), better known in English as Ovid. The theme of transformation unites a disparate collection of legendary stories which progress from the beginning of the universe to the deification of Julius Caesar. In some tales, however, the metamorphosis a minor element in the story, leading many scholars to look for other ways to interpret the poem's meaning. Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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Medea by Seneca is a Latin adaptation of Euripides' play of the same name. Seneca alters some details of the plot and makes Medea a more calculating figure than in Euripides' portrayal. Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes is one of the outstanding works of political theory in the English language. It develops an early social contract theory to argue that human beings must put themselves under a single absolute sovereign as the only way out of a state of nature in which life is famously said to be 'nasty, brutish and short'. Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Essays by Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) were the first published work of the English statesman and thinker, appearing in 1597, with revised and expanded editions in 1612 and 1625. In introducing the essay format by pioneered by Montaigne to English, Bacon gave the genre a pointed, business-like concision, perhaps more reminiscent of Machiavelli. Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Trojan Women (Latin: Troades) by Seneca is a Latin adaptation of Euripides' play of the same name, along with elements of the latter's Hecuba. Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Ten Books of Histories (Latin: Decem Libri Historiarum), more commonly known as The History of the Franks (Latin: Historia Francorum) are the major work of St Gregory of Tours (538-594 CE). The first major historian of post-Roman Western Europe, Gregory relates the Christianization of Gaul and the rule of Merovingian Frankish kings down to his own time. Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Madness of Hercules (Latin: Hercules Furens) by Seneca the Younger is a Latin adaptation of Euripides' play of the same name. There are some differences in the plot. Instead of threatening to kill Hercules' children, the Theban usurper Lycus seeks to marry his wife Megara. Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Discourses on the First Ten Book of Titus Livius, (Italian: Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio), often known simply as The Discourses, were written by Niccolo Machiavelli in the second decade of the sixteenth century, in the sme period as his most famous book, The Prince. In contrast to the monarchical concerns of that work, Machiavelli focuses in The Discourses on the political of republican government, through a commentary on Livy's account of the early history of Rome. Many scholars have argued that The Discourses provide a fuller picture of Machiavelli's political beliefs than does the Prince. Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Prince (Italian: Il Principe) by Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), one of the most influential political texts ever written, was dedicated to Lorenzo II de Medici in the early sixteenth century, a time when Machiavelli's native Florence was teetering between monarchical and republican rule. The fact that Machiavelli worked on this manual of advice for monarchs at the same time as his fervently republican Discourses on Livy, suggests that his deepest interest may have been the institute of the state itself. Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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The Essays (French: Essais) by Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) inaugurated a literary form on their first publication in 1580. His Essais or 'attempts' at various subjects were part of a larger project of-self reflection. His focus on the individual personality, in stark contrast to the ancient writers on whom he dew copiously, had a profound influence on later writers. Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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Wealth or Plutus (Greek: Πλοῦτος) is Aristophanes last extant comedy, produced in 388 BC. The play centres on Chremylus, an exasperated Athenian who asks the Delphic oracle if he should bring his son up to be good or bad in order to prosper in life. The oracle leads him to a blind man who turns out to be the god of wealth, Plutus. Chremylus arranges for his sight to be restored at the temple of Asclepius. As a result, Plutus is able to reward the good and impoverish the bad. The newly wealthy Chremylus then receives a stream of visitors to his home, whose various situations illustrate the way Athenian society has been turned up side down as a result. Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
Ecclesiazusae (Greek: Ἐκκλησιάζουσαι} or Assemblywomen is a comedy by Aristophanes, probably first produced at Athens in 392 BC. Like the earlier Lysistrata, the play imagines women taking over the city. On this occasion, inspired by their ringleader Praxagora, they disguise themselves as men to pack the assembly, and vote to hand control over to themselves. they also enact a series of communistic measures, something which has been seen, probably anachronistically, as a satire on Plato's political program. Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
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Thesmophoriazusae (Greek: Θεσμοφοριάζουσαι) or Women at the Thesmophoria is a comedy by Aristophanes, first produced at Athens in 411 BC, probably at the Dionysia. As with Lysistrata, thought to have been produced at the Lenaea in the same year, gender forms a significant theme of the work, which is set during the Thesmophoria, a festival attended solely by women. Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
Lysistrata (Greek: Λυσιστράτη) is a comedy by Aristophanes, which may have been produced for the Lenaea Festival at Athens in 411 BC. It's theme reflects the city's misfortunes in the Peloponnesian War following the defeat of the Sicilian Expedition in 413 BC. The title character is an Athenian woman who contrives to force an end to the war, first by organising women from across Greece to refuse sexual relations with their menfolk, and secondly by leading Athenian wives in seizing the Acropolis, and fighting off the old men of the city. Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
The Birds (Greek: Ὄρνιθες) is a comedy by Aristophanes first produced at the Athenian City Dionysia in 414 BC. It's fantastic plot may reflect an appetite for escapism during the tense period in which the city awaited the outcome of the Sicilian expedition. The play's protagonists are two Athenians who abandon the city go and live among the birds, who they persuade to build a city in the air, Nephelokokkygia or Cloudcuckooland, from which they force gods and humans to come to terms with them. Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes
The 1980 Walker report on RUC Special Branch has been something of a holy grail for documentary researchers of the Troubles. After a long-running campaign, the Committee for the Administration of Justice has published a redacted version (PDF) released by... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2018 at The Green Ribbon
Peace (Greek: Εἰρήνη) is a comedy by Aristophanes, first performed at the Great Dionysia in 421 BC, where it won second prize. It satirises the contemporary political situation following the battle of Amphipolis, when the deaths of the Athenian general Cleon, and the Spartan Brasidas,paved the way for the Peace of Nicias, an outcome which Aristophanes enthusiastically anticipates. Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2018 at Tom's Learning Notes