Thursday, May 20, 2021

Age Fraught with Tech Advancement

Well regarded as a public speaker and writer,
 Tracy Lee Simmons has a focus on classical history, philosophy, and politics. In a book review published in The National Review (April, 2018), Tracy Lee Simmons took up Leon R. Kass’ Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times.

Uniquely positioned as a biochemist and practicing physician, Kass is a former philosophy professor and Bioethics chair of the President’s Council at the University of Chicago. At a time when issues of medicine and bioethics are at the forefront, Simmons describes Kass as confronting a world in which technology advancements have outpaced the “human capacity to handle the technology wisely.”

The book delves into what is possible in the laboratory and with life-altering treatments and drugs, and whether these present an optimal pathway forward. For example, issues such as depression or mental performance may be addressed through drugs, but leave the self so altered that the question arises whether it is “still the very self that was acted upon.”

At the same time, the increasingly homogenous ideals of human society, whether in terms of beauty standards or what is acceptable in public discourse, can reduce aspects of the self, such as individuality, freedom, and potential for greatness. As Kass puts it, “an untroubled soul in a troubling world is a shrunken human being.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers

Tracy Lee Simmons is a writer and public speaker who focuses on history and the classical world of Ancient Greece and Rome. The author of the book Climbing Parnassus, Tracy Lee Simmons has had numerous articles published and in 2019 reviewed Princeton University Press’ Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers series for The Manhattan Institute's City Journal.

Since the 1940s, a trend identified by CS Lewis has been prevalent in the classics of treating primary literature as so complex as to be digestible only by credentialed professionals. This has led to an explosion of secondary works that expound on the works of the likes of Plato, Thucydides, and Seneca, and steer many students away from reading the originals.

In response, Princeton University Press has set about publishing a compact series of translations that seek to return Greek and Roman authors’ major works to ordinary readers. An example is Cicero’s Laelius de Amacitia, the title of which is rendered clearly in the series as “How to Be a Friend” and presented in such a way as to engage, as much as to inform. The take home for today’s reader is that friendship extends far beyond the pedestrian forms celebrated on social media and is a complex and evolving art.

Mr. Simmons describes these books, with ancillary materials kept at the absolute minimum, as providing “surprising heft for the average reader.” They bring age-old wisdom to contemporary readers, without the academic baggage that often makes them daunting to simply take up and enjoy. 

Age Fraught with Tech Advancement

Well regarded as a public speaker and writer,   Tracy Lee Simmons   has a focus on classical history, philosophy, and politics. In a book re...