Category: Quotes

Analects of the Core: Milton on reigning in Hell

Professor Ricks lectured today on John Milton’s Paradise Lost. From this spawns today’s analect: “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n” (Paradise Lost, Book 1, 258-263).

Analects of the Core: Malinowski on exchange and reciprocity

In view of Professor Barfield’s lecture on 11/29 about Malinowski’s notions of exchange and reciprocity, here is today’s analect: Apart from any consideration as to whether the gifts are necessary or even useful, giving for the sake of giving is one of the most important features of Trobriand sociology, and, from its very general and […]

Women and Reading

An excerpt from The New Yorker magazine on “The Woman Reader” by Belinda Jack. In the history of women, there is probably no matter, apart from contraception, more important than literacy. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, access to power required knowledge of the world. This could not be gained without reading and writing, […]

Ricks mentioned in the NYTimes

Although “The Iliad” and Psalms were sung to the lyre, music and poetry are now separate in the minds of most literary arbiters. Yet the critic Christopher Ricks contends that Bob Dylan’s fine, surprising language establishes him as a poet, whatever his medium. Leonard Cohen, accepting the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature in October, […]

Six Quotes: Hall on Plato and Math

“I went back to all the advice I’ve been given about talking to a big group, and they said I have to tell a joke. I don’t know many jokes and all the ones I do know are math jokes. [. . . ] That was a joke.” “Math trains you to see what is […]

Six Quotes: Fried on Plato

“Socrates is proposing radical censorship so the young receive the right message from a very young age.” “The best soul will be ruled by reason or calculation. Justice is when each part of the soul — calculating, spiritedness, and desire — is minding its own business.” “Can you know about politics in the same way […]

Ralston on literature and anonymity

The greatest of the world’s literature is strangely anonymous. We learn from their writing nothing of the lives of Homer or Shakespeare. Even Dante is only an apparent exception to this rule. The actual circumstance, the personal detail of his life, is present in the Divine Comedy in solution. It can be precipitated only by […]

Peter Wood: “Ashes”

Boston University’s campus along the Charles River was mutilated over the years by various road-building projects. It lost its waterfront to Storrow Drive in 1950, and then got sliced on the other side by the Massachusetts Turnpike in 1965. The construction left some odd remnants of land, including a triangular path of hillside next to […]

CC106: The monkeys are at it again

Do you see them? Those monkeys are banging away at their typewriters, trying to type out the complete works of Shakespeare. Every time there’s a problem involving randomness, the monkeys get called into action. But these are not your average monkeys. No, these are gedanken monkeys. They can madly type 24 hours a day, seven […]

‘A Faustian bargain’: on the value of the humanities

Perhaps my own background will interest you. I started out as a classics major. I’m now Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry. Of all the courses I took in college and graduate school, the ones that have benefited me the most in my career as a scientist are the courses in classics, art history, sociology, and […]