good works

Good works are as much a gift of grace:

When asked about his library, Pascal replied that he had not read all of them:

it would certainly have meant spending my life reading very bad books

Here is a select list that should set you on the right path, though where that path might lead or if it is right for you, is altogether another issue. Nonetheless, be sure none is a leisurely read for passive readers.

A note on reference material: As if further evidence were needed to show that mediocrity and reputation triumphs over substance, Russell's History of Western Philosophy has consistently overshadowed Copleston's exhaustive 9 volume History of Philosophy. If you must have an encyclopedic reference work, choose Copleston.

Phänomenologie des Geistes

The Master's ground-breaking work, available for native speakers and non-philosophers - well worth the labour.

Christianity and Classical Culture

Charles Norris Cochrane's study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine. They don't write books like this anymore.

Zur Genealogie der Moral

Torn between a number of books, we happily decide on one that forms the basis for a systematic reading of Nietzsche - On the Genealogy of morals

The Discourses

Alas, Niccoló Machiavelli is better remembered for The Prince but these so-called "republican" ruminations are a treasure - both of play and insight. The 2 volume edition translated by Leslie J. Walker is a gem.


Erich Auerbach's classic survey written during his flight from Germany. Stating his case from an opposition between Homer's Odyssey and the biblical sacrifice of Issac, Auerbach extends this contrast of styles within literary representations to an understanding of the substance of that same reality.

The Broken Middle

Written by Gillian Rose. To begin to get an idea of what The Broken Middle: Out of Our Ancient Society tries to address, you might find the following useful: W. T. Murphy's review (pdf version).

Politics & Vision

Written by Sheldon S. Wolin. A lost modern classic.

Frederick II

Another of the lost classics. E. H. Kantorowicz was a leading light of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study. Kantorowicz's other, widely read work is The King's two bodies, a study on political theology.

The Machiavellian Moment

Pocock's sweeping study - The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition - is second only to Leslie J. Walker as a responsible guide into and within Machiavelli.

Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition

Harold J. Berman draws from the writings of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy to theorize the Papal Revolution (and other "total" revolutions). Although it has attracted considerable criticism from professional legal historians, Berman's approach still lends itself for continued study. Sadly out-of-print, happily I have the pre-requisite 2 copies. Berman has recently published a second volume on this theme, Law and Revolution, II, The Impact of the Protestant Reformations on the Western Legal Tradition.

Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle

True, A. W. Price would recant his views in the vastly inferior Mental Conflict (1994), but the initial thrust - that staking of authourship borne out of Symposiumesque questioning of the nature of philosophy - leaves the reader breathless.