Sunday, December 4, 2011

Niall Ferguson on the Western Canon & Sequay to the Next Post

From Ferguson's Civilization: The West & the Rest:

What makes a civilization real to its inhabitants, in the end, is not just splendid edifices at its center, nor even the smooth functioning of the institutions they house. At its core, a civilization is the texts that are taught in schools, learned by its students and recollected in times of tribulation. The civilization of China was once built on the teachings of Confucius. The civilization of Islam -- of the cult of submission -- is still built on the Koran. But what are the foundational texts of Western civilization, that can bolster our belief in the almost boundless power of the free individual human being?

I would suggest the King James Bible, Isaac Newton's Principia, John Locke's Two Treatises of Government, Adam Smith's Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations, Edmund Burke's Recollections of the Revolution in France and Charles Darwin's Origin of Species -- to which should be added to William Shakespeare's's plays selected speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. If I had to select a single volume as Koran, it would be Shakespeare's complete works.

Id. 324.

As you will learn from my next post, the admiration of Shakespeare as the author at the heart of the Western tradition--at least since the Renaissance--is not unusual.

What other books, since the advent of modernity, might Ferguson have cited?

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