Reading List Revisited

Retirement opened up for me a wide swath of time to do what I want to do, and one of the big things I want to do is read. Deciding what to read has been interesting, and watching myself decide, seeing how my decisions are affected and shaped by so many different factors, has been almost as interesting, though in a different way. I’ve tracked some of those decisions in this blog, and I’m returning to the theme now.

You can see some of my earlier reading decisions in other posts (look for the “Reading” tag). One of those posts (Reading Plan: December 2023 through February 2024) lays out a rather ambitious reading plan for the three months of December, January, and February. I’m here now to announce that I’m leaving that plan behind, simply because I’ve become immersed in the work of Immanuel Kant. I’ve read a good bit of Kant over the years, but I’ve never read two of the three major works (the first and third Critiques from cover to cover. Though I’ve toyed with the idea of taking up the Critique of Pure Reason (most recently after my son gave me a copy of the Cambridge translation for my birthday several years ago), I decided last fall to take on the challenge.

This recent decision was prompted by two rather different things. First, while browsing our local bookstore I came across Karen Stohr’s, Choosing Freedom, an introduction to Kant’s ethics. I did some work with Karen while I was at Georgetown, and I was intrigued. The book is well worth reading – I’m fairly certain that if I were to teach an introductory ethics course again (not going to happen!), I’d consider it as one of the texts. That aside, reading the book re-awakened my interest in Kant’s ethics, so I read his Lectures on Ethics (for the first time) and re-read a couple of his other books on ethics. Then I was invited to speak at an event at my alma mater honoring my philosophy professor (see Remembering Joe Stamey). Thinking about those remarks had me reading many of Joe’s papers that I had tucked away in an old filing cabinet, and I realized/remembered how much I had learned from him about Kant. So I decided, in part to honor him and in part in gratitude for my son’s gift, to read the Critique of Pure Reason, along with several commentaries and introductions. And, in fact, my reading list for these three months includes those texts plus over a dozen others. Such ambitions!

But I’ve realized that I really can’t do the Kant work justice and read all those other books. So I’m writing now to relieve myself of that responsibility. I’m making good progress on the Critique, with some valuable assistance from Sebastian Gardner, Paul Geyer, and Allen Wood. But it’s consuming my reading time, and more than consuming my brain bandwidth. Oh, to be young again, when I was convinced I could stay alert enough into the late night hours to at least pretend to understand challenging texts. So those other books will simply have to wait.