The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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On Secund Thawt: The Grammar of Dating

Good grammar is said to be all the rage on dating sites.  This story would be good news, had it been reported anywhere but in the Wall Street Journal, whose columnists and editors do not appear to know the difference between grammar and spelling.  They lead the story with a young man who was put off by a potential date who  wrote him a confirmation of their first meeting: “I’ll see you their.”  Poor Mr. Cohen—a chump more interested in spelling than romance.  The young lady has made a fortunate escape.  One is almost tempted to agree with the Columbia University...

1

Wednesday’s Child: The Electric Stradivari

If I were asked to devise a novel “ontological proof” of God’s existence, in the tradition of St. Anselm and the rest of that crowd, I would probably begin by pointing out the difference between the price of a yard of cashmere tweed and a yard of blue denim.  Hierarchies exist and, despite society’s attempts to erode or invert them, are demonstrable and immutable, which suggests that some kind of apogee of the natural order of things must exist in its turn. Though our society seeks to level the field, so that a fur must now be qualified as “real”...

6

The Autodidact’s Reading List, I: The Ancient Greeks

Part One:  The Greeks Pre-Classical Homer    The  Iliad and the Odyssey   There are many translations and imitations.  For plain prose by good scholars, there is Lang, Leaf, and Myers for the Iliad and Butcher and Lang for the Odyssey.  George Chapman’s translations and Alexander Pope’s Iliad are important works of English verse.  T.E. Lawrence’s Odyssey is a readable narrative. There are several Autodidact essays and podcasts on Homer, e.g. https://fleming.foundation/2015/05/the-autodidact-i-homer-part-1/  and  https://fleming.foundation/2016/12/boethius-book-club-episode-10-the-odyssey/. You can find many others simply by searching “Homer.”  Many are free podcasts, and other, more polished lectures, are for sale. The Homeric Hymns These brief poems...

0

Sophocles’ Oedipus III

Jocaste once again reassures Oedipus  that religion is bunk.  Even if the servant changes his story about the number of Laius’s killers, “he will never prove that the killing of Laius was as predicted, namely that he would be killed by my son as Apollo prophesied.”   Thus the second witness is not crucial to the story.  Oedipus here also makes an important slip: It is not just oracle-mongers who are not to be trusted, but the god himself. The choral ode that follows is a key moment in the play.  The chorus, coming to their senses, hope for purity...

4

Properties of Blood, I F

Then, if our first impression of the Sermon was that this Messiah had come to destroy all law and custom, we were mistaken.  “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” What He means by this is made clear from a series of examples.  The law and morality of the Jews (like the legal and moral conventions of the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, et al.) forbade murder.  The Greek phoneuin, used in the Sermon, is not a generic word for kill that would typically be used of a hunter killing a beast; it is a strong world that may either...

5

Wednesday’s Child: Hunting for Certainty

  We later divorced – among other reasons, because I did not deserve her – but the American woman to whom I was married at the time had certain peculiarities of character, and it was not until many years later that the visitor whom she had entertained at dinner recounted the episode to me in vivid detail. We were living in Florence then, a town I loathed and still do, renting the piano nobile of the Palazzo Corsini at the Prato – a cavernous, draughty, forbidding place, illuminated but dimly by Guido Reni’s portrait of a Corsini cardinal who would...

8

Sophocles’ Oedipus, II

Oedipus issues an edict against the killer and the blind seer Teiresias is brought in to assist the case and, as members of the audience might suppose, to reprise his role in the Antigone.  It is Teireisias’ fortune, though (unlike Cassandra) not his destiny, to speak plain truth to unbelieving ears.  Understanding human nature, he is loath to say what he knows: From his first words, the old man reveals he knows the truth but does not wish to speak.  Oedipus not only insists that Teiresias speak out, but he reviles the prophet, first for recalcitrance, and then, when the...

4

In the Name of Obama

In an earlier piece of internet graffiti, I subjected the name Trump to a somewhat whimsical analysis in which I stuck in this obiter dictum:  “Like so many good old American names, Trump’s grandfather’s name was actually Drumpf—a really significant piece of evidence for leftists who found nothing odd in a name like Barack Obama.” Now that Trump is being attacked for refusing to deny that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, it is time to look more closely  at the President’s name.  Trump’s problem flared up when a questioner in Rochester asked him one of those leading questions most politicians...

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Properties of Blood, Chapter I part E

This text is being made available at no cost for a limited period of time. Early Greek poets had never tired of celebrating men of wealth and power or of complaining about their own failures and poverty.  Traditional Greek culture taught that shame (aidos) and honor (time) were important moral values that had to be respected.  A sense of shame included having a regard for social conventions and showing respect to parents, elders, and social superiors, while honor (the Greek word τίμη literally implies price or value) was the respect to which you were entitled, by your family, social status,...

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On Second Thought: The Right to Be Disgusting

  The United States government has decided at long last to use the term “sexual rights” when discussing global development and human rights.  However, this is a less radical move than it might appear.  According to a statement made by Richard Erdman, “deputy ambassador to the UN,”sexual rights are not human rights, and they are not enshrined in human rights law.”  At first sight, then, this change in language is only a meaningless gesture, an accommodation to the leftist rhetoric of the administration. On second thought, however, this little change does signal a shift with long-term consequences.  It was not...