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Recommended Reading

Top Billing! The Strategist – “The Persian Expedition

What a great book.  Of the students and associates of Socrates, Xenophon was the one who kept a foot pragmatically grounded in reality, something that cannot always be said of Plato, who was admittedly a much greater philosopher, or of Critias.

On the death of Arthur C. ClarkWizards of OzChicago Boyz, The Glittering Eye, Soob, Whirledview, Kingdaddy, Armchair Generalist

When blogfriends unite, I take note.

On “Anonymous” – Global  Guerillas, Coming Anarchy 

I’d say this is emergent 5GW.

SWJ Blog – “An Outsider’s Perspective

This one is already in circulation so I’m just piling on.

That’s it!

15 Responses to “Recommended Reading”

  1. strategist Says:

    Thanks for the mention, Mark.

  2. Lexington Green Says:

    Xenophon is one of those gaps in my reading that shames me.  I sent an email to a friend who is a Straussian — say what you like about those guys, they are devoted to producing first-rate, literal, translations of the classics.  He tells me this recent translation of Xenophon is very good. 


  3. zen Says:

    Anytime Strat.
    Hi Lex,
    Ah, and it should ;o) 
    Don’t feel badly, I feel a need to read Xenophon’s Cyropaedia which I would put on a shelf next to Machiavelli, Polybius, Han Fei-tzu and Ibn Khaldun ( who I also have yet to read). By the way, in Black Swan , Taleb has a neat bit on the meaning of owning libraries with  unread books:

    "The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. he is the owner of a large personal library ( containing thirty thousand books), and separates vistors into two categories: those who react with ‘Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?’ and others – a very small minority- who get the point that a private library is not an ego boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real estate market allow you to put there. You wil accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growig number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call the collection of unread books an antilibrary."
    He speaks the truth.

  4. Lexington Green Says:

    That is a very good point.  And the penumbra around my few thousand books I own but have not yet read is my "list" of books I have reason to believe are good, which contains about 6,000 titles.  The more you dig in the more you realize (1) there are key areas I know virtually nothing substantive about, (2) the areas I know decently well still have massive gaps, and (3) the areas I know well still reveal new things to me all the time.

    Please tell this relative Sino-illiterate who Han Fei-tzu is.  I know Machiavelli, Polybius (read both at U of Chicago, God bless it) and I too feel the tug of Ibn Khaldun.   If Han Fei-tzu belongs in such company, I should at least know who he is … .

  5. zen Says:

    Han Fei-tzu is the semi-legendary, pre-unification, Prince-philosopher who founded the anti-Confucian "Legalist" school ( sometimes called "Legalist-Realist") of philosophy. Like Sun-tzu, Confucius ( Kung fu-tzu) or Homer, he’s not quite a historical figure in the same sense as is Plato or Aristotle and some of Han Fei-tzu’s writings may actually have been written by a number of authors from the early legalist school.
    Han fei-tzu is noteworthy because his philosophy, centered on holding and acquiring power rather than virtue, was championed by the the first emperor of united China, Qin Shi Huang (sometimes called Shih Huangdi), who began construction of the Great Wall and tried to stamp out Confucianism by burning texts and persecuting Confucian scholars.
    Unfortunately, this figure, who is the "founding father" of Chinese unity was also a paranoid autocrat and his legalist Qin dynasty served as a model for Mao ZeDong in much the same fashion as Stalin expressed genuine admiration for the rule of Ivan the Terrible.

  6. Lexington Green Says:

    Most excellent response.  

    Wikipedia discloses these two sources:

    Liao, W. K. (trans.): The Complete Works Of Han Fei Tz?. 2 vol. London: Arthur Probsthain, vol. 1 1939, vol. 2 1959. Burton Watson (1964). Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings

    Yet another mountain to scale. 

    Life is far too short, the pile of books is far too high. 

  7. zen Says:

    I’m not surprised at the copyright dates.  One of my last undergrad classes circa 1989 was on Chinese philo with an ancient prof who spoke Mandarin and-I think – Cantonese – as well and my final paper for him was a comparison of the philosophy of Han Fei-Tzu and Sun Tzu. Getting a copy of Han Fei-tzu’s in pre-internet days required inter-library loan and hoping for the best as nothing new had been published at the time. Evidently little has changed. A shame.

  8. zen Says:

    This site has snippets from Han Fei-Tzu

  9. Lexington Green Says:

    Sun Tzu:  "If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. " 

    We are in trouble as a nation and a civilization.  I am acutely aware that I know far, far too little about China.  But I also know that I probably am in the top few hundred thousand Americans in terms of what I DO KNOW.  And here I find out that the Polybius and/or Machiavelli of China is (1) a guy I have never heard of until today, and (2) that the English language translations of his books are 40-60 years old. 

    We have grave strategic weaknesses.  We are coming into a conflicted period with China, however you slice it.  Ignorance will lead to poor decisions.  We need a massive education program in Islamic and Chinese civilization. 

    Maybe it can be started informally by means of blogs or similar sites, to prime the pump.  

  10. zen Says:

    We are behind, definitely, but I think, overall, we are better placed as a society to understand China than we are Arabic-Islamic civilization. Chinese is a hard language to master but the Chinese diaspora in the West is  large and at least two centuries old and Anglo-American-European academic programs to study Chinese history are decently robust. China itself is far more open to foreign cultural influences and prone to promoting it’s own civilization while a forming a consensus for that kind of exchange, or at least how to do so, has been a topic of debate in the Islamic world since the late Ottoman period.

  11. ComingAnarchy.com » Blog Archive » The Traveller’s Antilibrary Says:

    […] this is a brilliant concept that Münzenberg picked up and got me thinking. I have a small stack of to-read books but it […]

  12. Lexington Green Says:

    My copy of the the Anabasis just arrived.  Damn, it’s beautiful.  I have to finish a bunch of stuff I am already reading before I can get to it, though. 

  13. ElamBend Says:

    May I just say that the conversation above between Zen and Lex is a beautiful reminder of what makes the internet so wonderful.  You are both scholars.

  14. zen Says:

    Thanks Elam – much appreciated!!

  15. I Dream Awake » Blog Archive » The Antilibrary Says:

    […] Zenpundit comments section […]

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