I have an idea for a reading programme that I think will broaden my knowledge of different literatures and philosophies very rapidly. I’m excited about it, even though I doubt I will have a chance to try it in the next year or two.
First let me give a bit of background. I’ve read a fair bit about the history of philosophy, and several years ago I did a deep dive into the history of philosophy, trying to start at the beginning and read as many major works as I could from as many major thinkers as I could, from the Socratics all the way down to Heidegger.
Furthermore, I’m currently trying to read through all of Leo Strauss’s published work, a project that I’m about halfway through currently and which I don’t want to abandon before finishing. I hope also to be a full time graduate student in philosophy either this year or the following year, which will temporarily take away much of my ability to choose what I will spend my time reading.
However, once I’m in a place to do so, I want to start jumping around. I want to choose and read through one major work from one major thinker from ancient Greece, and to read it thoroughly, taking careful notes. After that, I will aim to choose and read through one major work from, let’s say late antiquity. And then one Latin work from the Middle Ages, and then one medieval Arabic work. And then one early modern work, and then one from German idealism, and then one modern continental book, and then one from the modern analytic school. Maybe I’ll fit in a couple others along the way.
And then once I’ve done that, I’ll go back to the beginning and choose a different work from Greek antiquity, and then I’ll go through the sequence again, choosing new books.
And then I can continue jumping around in that fashion for as long as I like.
One benefit of proceeding in this way is that I will see works from different periods lined up right beside each other, which will help me see not merely the stylistic differences between them but also the substantial differences, which are often much more challenging to puzzle out, given the different ways that words are used and the different dividing lines that are employed.