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The Great Conversation is a characterization of references and allusions made by authors in the Western canon to the works of their predecessors. As such it is a name used in the promotion of the Great Books of the Western World published by Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. in 1952. It is also the title of (i) the first volume of the first edition of this set of books, authore The Great Conversation is a characterization of references and allusions made by authors in the Western canon to the works of their predecessors. As such it is a name used in the promotion of the Great Books of the Western World published by Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. in 1952. It is also the title of (i) the first volume of the first edition of this set of books, authored by Robert Maynard Hutchins, and (ii) an accessory volume to the second edition (1990), authored by Mortimer Adler.


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The Great Conversation is a characterization of references and allusions made by authors in the Western canon to the works of their predecessors. As such it is a name used in the promotion of the Great Books of the Western World published by Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. in 1952. It is also the title of (i) the first volume of the first edition of this set of books, authore The Great Conversation is a characterization of references and allusions made by authors in the Western canon to the works of their predecessors. As such it is a name used in the promotion of the Great Books of the Western World published by Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. in 1952. It is also the title of (i) the first volume of the first edition of this set of books, authored by Robert Maynard Hutchins, and (ii) an accessory volume to the second edition (1990), authored by Mortimer Adler.

30 review for The Great Conversation: The Substance Of A Liberal Education (Great Books Of The Western World, #1)

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Withun

    As I read this book, there were many times that I went to the computer, ready to share a gem of a sentence or a passage with my friends on Facebook or with my readers on my website. Each time I did so, however, I had to stop myself – fight myself even – and walk away from the computer. If I had shared every sentence and every passage I wanted to share, I would have ended up quoting the entire book! From beginning to end, this short book is a giant, shining gem. Robert Hutchins, playing the part o As I read this book, there were many times that I went to the computer, ready to share a gem of a sentence or a passage with my friends on Facebook or with my readers on my website. Each time I did so, however, I had to stop myself – fight myself even – and walk away from the computer. If I had shared every sentence and every passage I wanted to share, I would have ended up quoting the entire book! From beginning to end, this short book is a giant, shining gem. Robert Hutchins, playing the part of the great social doctor of Western Civilization, diagnoses the ailment that has come to pervade nearly every aspect of our culture and offers the prescription that could cure us of this otherwise fatal illness. We ourselves have been and now educate our children as, essentially, automatons. Drunk under the influence of Dewey and decline, and at the wheel of the greatest military-economic-political-cultural bloc the world has ever seen, we are a threat to ourselves and others. Hutchins wrote this book over 50 years ago, and the situation has only gotten worse since then. We live in a nation – the United States – and, in the bigger picture, a culture – Western – and a even world, in which the masses have been given ever more leisure time, more political power, and more say in their own lives and in the lives of others through democratic and republican forms of government. And yet these same masses, as anyone can plainly see by watching the evening news or just having a conversation with the man behind the counter at the gas station, are pitifully undereducated, miseducated, and uneducated. The average person has spent 13 years (if they have a high school degree) or perhaps 17 years (if they have a bachelor's degree) on what amounts to perhaps an 8th grade education! In short, we've given the car keys to a 12 year old! And how do we set about remedying this situation before it destroys us and the world with us? Hutchins provides the answer: a good classical, liberal education. Modern Westerners are asked to elect their leaders, to make important decisions about economics, law, and war; how can they possibly be prepared to do so without having read Plato, Adam Smith, and James Madison? Modern Westerners are asked to digest new and amazing scientific discoveries and technological advances; how can they possibly be expected to do so without some familiarity with Newton, Kepler, and Aristotle? They cannot and they will not be able to fully function in the roles the modern world demands of them until they have thoroughly familiarized themselves with the ideas and thinkers that came before them and built the world they live in. More than that, and of more importance by far, is the exercise and attainment of the fullness of humanity. Modern man, in addition to the increased authority and responsibility already mentioned, also has more leisure time and circumstances more conducive to the production of intellectual capital than his ancestors of any previous time. The question now is: is modern man to waste his existence as a sad, pitiful half animal-half machine, working, eating, sleeping, passing the time in video games and cheap entertainment, or is he to reach for the fullness of his own humanity, to contemplate the universe and his place in it, the origin and destiny of humanity, the possibilities of what is beyond him? The answer to that question is one that each of us must make for himself and for his children. I recommend this book to anyone with children of schooling age, to anyone who places value on education and intelligence, and to anyone who wants to be a human being in the fullest sense of the word – in other words, I recommend this book for everyone.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    This is the introductory volume to a set of books entitled The Great Conversation. The set is meant to represent the canon of Western culture (more or less). This introductory volume is the apology for the set itself, and even though it is somewhat dated and certainly specific in its purpose, I believe this book should be read by anyone interested in their own education or the state of education in general. There were so many sections of the book that I wanted to quote, that I eventually gave up This is the introductory volume to a set of books entitled The Great Conversation. The set is meant to represent the canon of Western culture (more or less). This introductory volume is the apology for the set itself, and even though it is somewhat dated and certainly specific in its purpose, I believe this book should be read by anyone interested in their own education or the state of education in general. There were so many sections of the book that I wanted to quote, that I eventually gave up writing them down with the realization that I would simply have to recommend the book as a whole. I definitely found it to be timely. It is full of inciting statements, as well as many that are likely to anger. Hutchins does not mask his frustration with the state of American education nor his disgust at the fruit it bears. (Perhaps I should say that it is the barrenness of the educational system that disgusts him.) Fortunately, he is not limited to mere criticism but goes on to propose a remedy. The remedy is a liberal education for everyone.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I just don't understand why this insightful, intelligent and accurate review of education did not gain more traction. I am baffled that almost 60 years later the situation has worsened rather than improved.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Krys

    Not too long ago, in the 20th mid-century, a group of scholars decided to play Sisyphus, championing Galen, Hume, Locke, and Swift, et al as the cornerstone of a complete education. Even if the editors and their selected authors were not all men, all white, or European/American, any task of discrimination and exclusion invites critique and contestation. These taste-makers advocated a flavor of educational philosophy that the civil rights and feminist movements would soon challenge. But in 1952, Not too long ago, in the 20th mid-century, a group of scholars decided to play Sisyphus, championing Galen, Hume, Locke, and Swift, et al as the cornerstone of a complete education. Even if the editors and their selected authors were not all men, all white, or European/American, any task of discrimination and exclusion invites critique and contestation. These taste-makers advocated a flavor of educational philosophy that the civil rights and feminist movements would soon challenge. But in 1952, the editors were preoccupied with a different, pressing problem: to defend the reading of the Great Books, and a liberal education, against a turning cultural tide that questioned its value. In the 131 pages of The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Arts Education, editor Robert Hutchins proffers an argument in favor of the liberal arts, a rebuke of the waywardness of its scholars, and a counterweight to the cultural supremacy of the scientific method. It has equal value as a practical work that outlines the skills, strategies, and intellectual posture necessary to tackle the Great Books (Chapters I and X). Autodidacts, homeschoolers, and lifelong learners will find affirmation, coaching, and counsel. o any person of any discipline who suspects that their education failed them; to people who fear incompetence in the face of a challenging literary, philosophical, or scientific classic; and to any arts student who reads Forbes and wonders if the destitution predicted for them is idealism’s just dessert. all while levelling a cogent critique against the substandard education to which American students (and students of copycat systems) are unsuspectingly subjected. And even if you were lucky to have had a liberal education par excellence, Hutchins makes a convincing case that you, too, should read these books (again). Education is a lifelong obligation to ourselves and to our communities. An excellent chapter called “The Education of Adults” (Chapter VII) is a salve for those of us cut by the sword of the cult of youth as Hutchins makes the case that the best students of the greatest works are adults. After all, “the great books of ethics, political philosophy, economics, history and literature do not yield up their secrets to the immature.” (p.54) The editor never details what he means by a liberal education other than that students should develop a personal relationship with the classics independent of supporting, secondary source material. We find few answers to questions we might raise about the value of putting Milton, Plato, or Pascal in their historical contexts, or little guidance on negotiating the conflicting claims of a “Great Conversation” spanning millennia. Second, the editors wrote from the legacy of the Machine Age, after the Industrial Revolution had consolidated its transformation of society, but before the Information Age rewired the world in its image to become high-tech, global, and connected. Chapter III, “Education and Economics,” is most aged by the changes of the last few decades. For instance, Hutchins writes that “the constant drive to simplify industrial operations will eventually mean - and means in many industries today - that only a few hours will be required to give the worker all the training he can use.” (p. 21) However, as the economy has shifted from industry to a computerized, information-based society and as technology develops rapidly, frequent technical training and retraining characterizes our age more accurately than contented stasis. A globalized labor market pressures workers to be highly-skilled, and outsourcing and automation means that the middle class must either “move up” to the professions or move down to lower-skilled, service jobs. Hutchins prediction that the average person will have more opportunity to reach into the annals of history for general knowledge has materialized but not his reassurance of more time, and the editors’ confidence in the intelligence of liberal arts students (“we need have few fears that he will not be able to learn to make a living”) says nothing of employers’ desire to hire such graduates. But even if you’re convinced of the virtues of a liberal education, the practical aspects of the book are best viewed as suggestions rather than maxims. You may disagree that Eastern writings are peripheral to a Westerner’s self-understanding or suspect that women have made important contributions to Western thought. You may imagine that there exist books not on the list that will inspire an idiosyncratic illumination. But you may also see value in the editors’ suggestion to “follow the conversation” and read works in a roughly chronological order, or be inspired, even as a student of humanities, to read seminal scientific texts. As practical resources to the independent learner, they offer a a decade-long reading plan, a chronological listing of the authors and their works, and a brief introduction to reading syntopically using the Syntopicon. (The Syntopicon is Mortimer Adler’s incomparable 2-volume contribution to intellectual history: a topography of 102 “Great Ideas” such as memory, citizen, revolution and love across 2,500 years of exceptional thought. Adler’s “How to Read Intelligently offers excellent instruction in reading this way.) But all this advice depends upon the reader’s acceptance that a liberal education is useful today. A society intoxicated with the successes of the scientific method demands specialists, scientists, and technicians. It shouts, to an increasing crescendo, “What has the liberal arts done for us lately?” The editors know that they have to answer this question in order to advance the claim that the Great Books are worth reading. So Hutchins tackles the science question (does the rise of science, and the scientific method, make other ways of knowing obsolete?) and whether the disappearance of the liberal arts has progressive or regressive momentum. He opines the democratic, intellectual, and personal merits of a liberal education, and identifies why they’ve fallen into disrepute. In course, he points fingers at scholars in the humanities and liberal arts themselves, claiming that if fields were wrestling with worthy problems such as those of a good life, a good society, and human destiny, “it would be respectable for intelligent young people, young people with ideas, to devote their lives to the study of these issues.” (p. 56) This accusation seems especially pertinent in an era of post-modern navel-gazing and niche projects like “The Role of the Dash in the Third Paragraph of the 51st Chapter of the Fifth Books of George Eliot’s Middlemarch.” (Search Google for Alain de Botton’s talk “Art as Therapy” for more along these lines.) The Great Conversation is worth reading, if only to inform or sharpen your analysis of the current state of education and how to develop citizens and humans, not just workers. At the foundation of debates regarding liberal “versus” technical education or the scientific method versus the arts lay a supremely important epistemological question of the best method by which to seek truth. Humanities scholars and liberal artists stand as the ever-leaner congregation in a temple erected to Experience, Ambiguity, and Uncertainty. Whether you stand with David Hume, who pronounced that books void of abstract quantified or experimental reason be “committed to the flames” or whether your experience with the arts prods you disagree, Hutchins might say answer that the only way to enter the Great Conversation is to first listen in.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    This is a beautiful explanation of the importance of education. I unexpectedly inherited the 54 Great Books of the Western World from my grandfather and begun with the first book of the collection. This was a delightful treat, and I'm excited to spend the next few years working my way through this wonderful collection.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ci

    The initial subscription of the complete set of Great Books was $500 in 1952, which is nearly ten-fold in purchase power today. However, in near pristine condition, these books can be had for one dollar a piece at the library sales. Reading the grand introduction of the Editors nearly sixty years ago, I found much the dire prediction of a global disappearance of liberal education is indeed true, and continues to play out in vengeance globally. “What languages you use?” “Oh, a bit of C+ and a bit The initial subscription of the complete set of Great Books was $500 in 1952, which is nearly ten-fold in purchase power today. However, in near pristine condition, these books can be had for one dollar a piece at the library sales. Reading the grand introduction of the Editors nearly sixty years ago, I found much the dire prediction of a global disappearance of liberal education is indeed true, and continues to play out in vengeance globally. “What languages you use?” “Oh, a bit of C+ and a bit of Python” instead of French/German/Spanish. Forget about Latin and Greek; they are truly dead to this generation. Those books, ’the habitual vision of greatness’’, have been consigned to the relic of past era. Possibly the “dead white male” writers come to mind. This is the age of snapchats, blogs and twitters; even the newspapers are dying out. Why study liberal arts as an adult? Why read these books (published prior 1900)? Some cynic may invent a new word — “biblio-antiquing”. No wonder these books are cheaper than a song, marked as “low value” by the local library to get rid of their excess donation. My own set has made acquaintances only with dusts and humidity; no human fingers have flipped passed the title page. They are orphaned since the day they were purchased. Perhaps they stood only as ornaments for stately or plainer homes. Now they are discardable by the roadside, or truck-loaded to the local public library which in turns finds no home for them. As chief editor Hutchins told us, the misunderstood pragmatism of Dewey’s vocational education have replaced liberal education of the intellect into acquisition of job-related skills. No use for those old books anymore. However, I am persuaded by writers like Hutchins to take on these books with good faith. If not to make one a better person, at least a more informed one, acquiring basic knowledge of the Western civilization one is presently live in. Even though science, technology and economics are advancing through ages, the author believed that these books “… can help us to the that grasp of history, politics, morals, and economics and to that habit of mind which are needed to form a valid judgement on the issue.” On page 113, there is a 10-year reading plan. Onward then!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Heaven help me, I am thinking of reading the "Great Books of the Western World." The original 53-volume set costs only $950 on Amazon! Also - it's only a TEN YEAR reading plan (18 works per year). Who doesn't have time for that? Who among you thinks I should consider going on some sort of anti-psychotic medication at this point? As for the review of this book: Slightly pedantic and clearly written from a 1950s perspective, with its references to the "East" as a world the West cannot hope to unde Heaven help me, I am thinking of reading the "Great Books of the Western World." The original 53-volume set costs only $950 on Amazon! Also - it's only a TEN YEAR reading plan (18 works per year). Who doesn't have time for that? Who among you thinks I should consider going on some sort of anti-psychotic medication at this point? As for the review of this book: Slightly pedantic and clearly written from a 1950s perspective, with its references to the "East" as a world the West cannot hope to understand. I think Hutchins didn't realize the power of media to both permanently (?) dumb down our educational system and also to globalize our culture and forge connections with others. He mentioned that he hoped the trend away from studying the Great Conversation (great thought/ideas shaping our worldview) was only temporary. 50+ years later, I think he would lament our educational system. That said, I agree with his argument that Americans need to understand the western tradition that has shaped our society and that it is a patriotic duty to be well-educated in these ideas in order to participate in our democracy without the level of media manipulation I think we currently experience. And I particularly enjoyed his argument against the scientific method as the ONLY way of knowing or understanding something. Interesting. But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't have an inherent sense of educational inferiority (as I do).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Taylor

    Why read the great books that have shaped Western thought? In this introduction to the set, Hutchins points out the limitations of modern school-based education and presses for a renaissance of liberal education. Such an education does not teach a man what to think, or give him the answers, instead it teaches him how to think and what questions to ask. While I haven't yet read enough of the Great Books to know if my education was lacking, I'm willing to test the idea out. Getting to the source of Why read the great books that have shaped Western thought? In this introduction to the set, Hutchins points out the limitations of modern school-based education and presses for a renaissance of liberal education. Such an education does not teach a man what to think, or give him the answers, instead it teaches him how to think and what questions to ask. While I haven't yet read enough of the Great Books to know if my education was lacking, I'm willing to test the idea out. Getting to the source of what I learned will be interesting as it will place what I know into an historical and intellectual context. If you're unconvinced about whether to read the Great Books, this essay will convince you to make the effort.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    This was the most concise, passionate, and persuasive plea to value and treasure great, old books I've ever read. The author addressed everything from how to read, to why to read, to the practical application of his multitudinous principles. Education is also redefined, adding incredible insight into the current "norms" of "education." This will challenge your values for life in general, education in particular, and the role great books play in a holistic liberal arts education.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Duffy

    An inspiring love letter to liberal arts education as embodied by reading the classics and important works of the Western canon. There is much admonishment about the necessity of education for democratic society at large that reads like at least partially-fulfilled prophecy in 2017.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maurice Savard

    A ringing defense of the value of the liberal arts, as part of an introduction to the Great Books of the Western World set.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    An essay to read over and over again.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This slim opening volume of the Britannica Great Books of the Western World contends that liberal education, an unquestioned necessity for the civilized Westerner until the 19th century, though now all but dead, is not only worth reviving but is indispensable for every free citizen of our shrunken, technologized, and heavily armed world. Robert M. Hutchins, editor of the Britannica Great Books, delivers the keynote address in this essay, called "The Great Conversation". In it he seeks to fight of This slim opening volume of the Britannica Great Books of the Western World contends that liberal education, an unquestioned necessity for the civilized Westerner until the 19th century, though now all but dead, is not only worth reviving but is indispensable for every free citizen of our shrunken, technologized, and heavily armed world. Robert M. Hutchins, editor of the Britannica Great Books, delivers the keynote address in this essay, called "The Great Conversation". In it he seeks to fight off the various criticisms of liberal education and establish why its disappearance in the wake of other, more "modern" educational ideas is a near-disaster for humanity, certainly for the West, even if an invisible and slow-motion one. A liberal education boils down to studying and contemplating the Great Ideas contained in the Great Books of this series. "We think that these books show the origins of many of our most serious difficulties," he says. "We think that the spirit they represent and the habit of mind they teach are more necessary today than ever before." He makes the case that these books, far from containing fusty, outmoded ideas fit only for the deliberation of academic specialists, actually set forth, in the most cogent way yet developed, the most important and controversial problems that beset humanity. With few exceptions the Great Books were written not for specialists, but for the interested and intelligent lay reader. Hutchins deplores the descent of 20th-century education into academic specialization, physical science, and vocational training. According to him, such training in no way prepares us to deal with the deepest problems of modern life: how to coexist nonviolently, even when we cannot agree on things. As far as I can tell, all the criticisms that have been leveled against the Britannica Great Books series--that it is elitist, patriarchal, Western-biased--are answered in this essay, and answered well. Ideas don't care who has them or who talks about them. Our biggest danger is that we don't talk about them, don't think about them, and are mostly unaware of them. We can certainly debate whether these particular books are exactly the right set for such a series, but if not, they're pretty close, and they make a great place to start. I myself have no university education, and have been skeptical of the value of the old-fashioned "liberal education". Having read Ludwig von Mises' "Human Action", I've been persuaded that state education can only mean indoctrination, since, in Mises' view, no government will fund a curriculum that it perceives as being counter to its interests. Hutchins here delivers a powerful counterstroke to that thought, siding with Thomas Jefferson in the belief that the only way to preserve a free society is through universal education. I have to admit that for myself, the jury is back out. It's no coincidence, Hutchins would say: Education is one of the 102 Great Ideas discussed in the Great Books. This book challenged my beliefs and assumptions, made me think deeply, and did so in a very short space. What more recommendation can I give?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cindi

    This great little book is Volume 1 in a 54 volume set (as published in 1952--now it's 60 volumes for $998). The purpose of this volume is the argument that liberal education has died out, especially in America, and that in order to preserve our freedoms and government, we need to claim the right to a liberal education. I enjoyed reading the logic and persuasive thinking of the author. It was at times a challenging read for me, which is good. Too much of what I have been reading lately has been ea This great little book is Volume 1 in a 54 volume set (as published in 1952--now it's 60 volumes for $998). The purpose of this volume is the argument that liberal education has died out, especially in America, and that in order to preserve our freedoms and government, we need to claim the right to a liberal education. I enjoyed reading the logic and persuasive thinking of the author. It was at times a challenging read for me, which is good. Too much of what I have been reading lately has been easy. My mind is reveling in a little stretching. I thought Hutchins took a fair look at the history of education. So many of the ideas on education I've read lately are emotionally charged. Perhaps, rightly so, as there are many people who feel very strongly this way or that about what's happening in education today. This book did very little to hype up the emotions, which is why I give it five stars. Hutchins realizes that the liberal education of the past was for the elite, the rich. He brings into the picture the change in education around the turn of the twentieth century, the right to a free education for all. That's a really big deal! Hutchins says, " It would seem that this education is the best for everybody, if it is the best for the best, provided everybody can get it. The question, then, is: Can everybody get it? This is the most important question in education. Perhaps it is the most important question in the world. Nobody knows the answer to this question. There has never been a time in history when everybody has had a chance to get a liberal education. We can, however, examine the alternatives, and the consequences of each." Hutchins challenges the system to try it out and see what happens. Of course, that's more challenging than it sounds. I think that's why Hutchins doesn't really offer solutions or ideas towards accomplishing the goal. It's a hypothesis, yet to be tested. However, he and his editorial board do provide the books in these volumes to us. There's more to this question, for me, than whether every American can have this type of education. Since it's not possible to get this kind of education through the school systems and in college, the only answer is self education. In my case, I can begin with me and pass along the information and books to my children. I can inspire them. I learned a new term through reading this book: positivist (someone who believe that all knowledge can be obtained through use of the scientific method?? not sure I got it quite right). I had to think more about science (ie scientific method) vs. thought and ideas that cannot necessarily be tested by science. I had to think about the fact that there is value in both types of inquiry. My husband taught me another new term, what I hope to become, a post-positivist. One more idea to share. I liked the idea that if all Americans could obtain this kind of education, it would provide a common language for us which in turn promotes community. We seem to need that now more than ever.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Rush

    The only thing I don't understand about this book is why it is not still in print. I'm all in favor of mass producing it just as it is, even with the occasional references to the Great Books of the Western World set to which it is primarily an introduction, but I wouldn't mind necessarily the tiniest of editorial revisions only insofar as to the removal of the brief references to the set as its introduction, though the essence of the need for participating in the Great Books and the Western Cano The only thing I don't understand about this book is why it is not still in print. I'm all in favor of mass producing it just as it is, even with the occasional references to the Great Books of the Western World set to which it is primarily an introduction, but I wouldn't mind necessarily the tiniest of editorial revisions only insofar as to the removal of the brief references to the set as its introduction, though the essence of the need for participating in the Great Books and the Western Canon should remain. I would totally make this required reading in my classes at our classical school. I would get copies for all our alumni (though, hopefully, they already agree with essentially everything Hutchins has to say). I suppose one other thing exists I don't understand ... why doesn't everyone agree with him? I'm hoping it's because not many people have read this book. Those who have read it ... how could anyone disagree? He's totally right on just about everything. Other than a few more words about genuine Truth, it's as solid an essay on the importance of a genuine liberal education fueled by participation in the Great Conversation as possibly could be. If anyone out there does disagree, please let me know why and concerning what aspect of Hutchins's ideas (concerning which he would be the first to point out they are not in any way "his," since they are as old and true as the Conversation itself). Any further elaboration by myself would be an insult to the great work of the Great Books group and Hutchins's nonpareil essay. Read it and find out just how thoroughly wrong Alex Beam is and find out how great, true, beneficial, and useful a liberal education (fueled by the Great Conversation) is, was, and always will be.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jake E. Stief

    The Great Conversation is an essential piece for any person jumping into modern philosophy or the structure of education. It pin points many flaws within our current school system and presents a wealth of brilliant and logical ideas to solve these problems. The education of us young people has become corrupt with the horrifically constructed text books produced by greedy professors. These text books provide us with many out of context facts, but do we really remember much of anything a month aft The Great Conversation is an essential piece for any person jumping into modern philosophy or the structure of education. It pin points many flaws within our current school system and presents a wealth of brilliant and logical ideas to solve these problems. The education of us young people has become corrupt with the horrifically constructed text books produced by greedy professors. These text books provide us with many out of context facts, but do we really remember much of anything a month after reading them? What they've led us to become is a race of people who care more about grades than about what we are actually learning. We've become a race of people that turns their noses at books, perhaps because of the nightmares we are given with text books. I learned an invaluable lesson form this book. Disregard most any lesson which plans to teach via the means of a text book. If I want to learn a specific subject, then I should go my own way and actually read books... Literature... Primary sources which shed a much better light on the topic as well as enable me to retain much more knowledge. Read this book and you will become inspired. As was stated in other review, nearly this whole book is quotable! Click on the link below for a more detailed review of the book https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymdz6...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    just the extended excerpt: http://www.britannica.com/blogs/wp-co... Had a great conversation (lol) with the youth who are meeting with me to study some of the great books. Interesting points. I can totally see how this influenced the DeMilles as they developed their TJEd philosophy. [As did Charlotte Mason, John Holt, the Moores and Montessori. But I digress.] Range of themes discussed: >scientific method vs. rational thought, >*is* a liberal education more important/valuable than a specialize just the extended excerpt: http://www.britannica.com/blogs/wp-co... Had a great conversation (lol) with the youth who are meeting with me to study some of the great books. Interesting points. I can totally see how this influenced the DeMilles as they developed their TJEd philosophy. [As did Charlotte Mason, John Holt, the Moores and Montessori. But I digress.] Range of themes discussed: >scientific method vs. rational thought, >*is* a liberal education more important/valuable than a specialized education >the effect on our lives of the ideas explored in the Great Books >the only requirement for pursuing a liberal education is being human >how do you determine truth >exposure to greatness as a teacher, >how, ultimately, the great conversation has room for science, >and the reality that industrialization has made liberal education available to virtually all for the first time in history.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tim Sully

    "The great books show, on the contrary, that even those thinkers of the past who are now often looked upon as the most reactionary, the medieval theologians, insisted, as Aristotle had before them, that the truth of any statement is its conformity to reality or fact, and that sense-experience is required to discover the particular matters of fact that test the truth of general statements about the nature of things." Page 36 "In this connection we might recall the dictum of Rousseau: 'It matters l "The great books show, on the contrary, that even those thinkers of the past who are now often looked upon as the most reactionary, the medieval theologians, insisted, as Aristotle had before them, that the truth of any statement is its conformity to reality or fact, and that sense-experience is required to discover the particular matters of fact that test the truth of general statements about the nature of things." Page 36 "In this connection we might recall the dictum of Rousseau: 'It matters little to me whether my pupil is intended for the army, the church, or the law. Before his parents chose a calling for him, nature called him to be a man . . . When he leaves me, he will be neither a magistrate, a soldier, nor a priest; he will be a man.'" Page 51 "The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment." Page 80

  19. 4 out of 5

    Celeste Batchelor

    I loved this book! It was insightful and thought provoking. A must read for anyone interested in promoting freedom, gaining a true education (not the muck the public schools teach), and who want to develop intelligence. Here are some quotes that I found the most indicative of what this book is about. ~ "Liberal education ought to end only with life itself." ~ "Any republic maintains its justice, peace, freedom, and order by the exercise of intelligence" ~ "To put an end to the spirit of inquiry that I loved this book! It was insightful and thought provoking. A must read for anyone interested in promoting freedom, gaining a true education (not the muck the public schools teach), and who want to develop intelligence. Here are some quotes that I found the most indicative of what this book is about. ~ "Liberal education ought to end only with life itself." ~ "Any republic maintains its justice, peace, freedom, and order by the exercise of intelligence" ~ "To put an end to the spirit of inquiry that has characterized the West it is not necessary to burn the books. All we have to do is leave them unread for a few generations." I have to say that this book reminded me of many principles taught by Oliver DeMille in "A Thomas Jefferson Education". I believe this was one of the books that inspired him.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    An interesting introduction for some of histories greatest books to follow. I found myself agreeing with the author as frequently as I disagreed. His assumption that since a liberal education was best for the best in past times that it must be best for all I found flaw with. Primarily that he assumed that a liberal eduction was the best for the best on the basis that it had been practiced. One big piece I did agree with is that modern society builds the classics up to intimidating levels, where o An interesting introduction for some of histories greatest books to follow. I found myself agreeing with the author as frequently as I disagreed. His assumption that since a liberal education was best for the best in past times that it must be best for all I found flaw with. Primarily that he assumed that a liberal eduction was the best for the best on the basis that it had been practiced. One big piece I did agree with is that modern society builds the classics up to intimidating levels, where only literary critics may read and make note. The author argued that the classics should be for the general populace as well, a point I find is often missed even sixty years after this introduction was written.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    This is the introduction to the Great Books, I felt after the first few chapters it repeated a lot of the same ideas. I felt it was written to convince one to read the Great books. It talked a lot about everyone needing a liberal educational, while I believe this and plan to read the works of the great books I think I got the point about half way through and the rest I would have been fine to have skipped and started reading the next volume. There was one chapter that even suggested certain book This is the introduction to the Great Books, I felt after the first few chapters it repeated a lot of the same ideas. I felt it was written to convince one to read the Great books. It talked a lot about everyone needing a liberal educational, while I believe this and plan to read the works of the great books I think I got the point about half way through and the rest I would have been fine to have skipped and started reading the next volume. There was one chapter that even suggested certain books, that weren't Great books should be burned, never, never should a book be burned. I'm choosing to believe this was just an analogy to prove a point and they really weren't suggesting burning any book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    A. Hotzler

    A little dated, but a strong affirmation of liberal education, its necessity for democratic citizens, and its necessity to be a human (of the West). Although I've read selections--sometimes whole texts--present in this set, this is shaping out to be the best garage sale find ever! (My mother picked up the entire set, minus Vol. 54 [Sigmund Freud] for only $10 at a garage sale over two decades ago; all volumes in near-mint condition. True story. The set sells for over $2,000.) I've only recently be A little dated, but a strong affirmation of liberal education, its necessity for democratic citizens, and its necessity to be a human (of the West). Although I've read selections--sometimes whole texts--present in this set, this is shaping out to be the best garage sale find ever! (My mother picked up the entire set, minus Vol. 54 [Sigmund Freud] for only $10 at a garage sale over two decades ago; all volumes in near-mint condition. True story. The set sells for over $2,000.) I've only recently begun, with guidance from a good friend and co-liberal artist, thinking of my role in the Great Conversation. The time for me to take part in this discourse is now.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brian C Albrecht

    It's almost unfair to judge a book that is an introduction to a long series wholly by itself. Well, I'm doing that anyway. I enjoyed reading this introduction. It was not only my first book on education in any formal sense, it also personally developed excitement in me to read the "great books." The arguments for a liberal education, while at times a little outdated, are generally well constructed. People like me- people who haven't read many Western classics- will be able to learn a lot from th It's almost unfair to judge a book that is an introduction to a long series wholly by itself. Well, I'm doing that anyway. I enjoyed reading this introduction. It was not only my first book on education in any formal sense, it also personally developed excitement in me to read the "great books." The arguments for a liberal education, while at times a little outdated, are generally well constructed. People like me- people who haven't read many Western classics- will be able to learn a lot from this course, specifically the intro. I'm trying to follow the plan in the back of the book which goes easiest-hardest.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Stone

    This is one of those books that confirms what a person always believed about their education. This introduction to a series explains why the books chosen should be read and reread by everyone, rather than just those few who society deems worthy of a liberal, leisurely education. Education should be a life long pursuit rather than a means to an end. As education for children has become compulsory it has become watered down intellectually. This should not be and everyone regardless of what high sc This is one of those books that confirms what a person always believed about their education. This introduction to a series explains why the books chosen should be read and reread by everyone, rather than just those few who society deems worthy of a liberal, leisurely education. Education should be a life long pursuit rather than a means to an end. As education for children has become compulsory it has become watered down intellectually. This should not be and everyone regardless of what high school, college, or trade school should read these great ideas as modern life would be different without them.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Perhaps more of an introduction for and a validation of the necessity of the Great Books that follow in the set, this book delves into our society today (generally speaking) and helps us realize where we're at and where we're going if we stay on the educational path we've all probably been on since our early grade school years. It's not long and definitely whets the reader's appetite for what's coming next....

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Exceptional book. The struggles faced in classical education were there back in 1952. It's interesting that Mr. Hutchins complains about the poor education children receive for the last 50 years, which would make it since about 1900 that we had a decent educational system. A must reading for anyone interested in the issues of Liberal Arts and Education.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Seth Weidman

    The best essay I've ever read on the benefits of a liberal arts education. Written by the man who implemented the (now greatly watered down) Great Books curriculum at UChicago. Has inspired me to go back and read some of the classics that I missed.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    Argument for reading the great books of the western tradition and a ten year plan of attack to start of the liberal education of an adult. Some of the tirades about society from the the period (1940-1970's) still resonate and seem eerily predictive - so maybe there is something to the argument.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Karyn

    This is the intro to the series The Great Books of the Western World. It is an argument for the importance of being educated with the great classics that are rarely studied anymore. I enjoyed it, really got me thinking. You can get it for free online...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ben Wilde

    I'll be coming back to this one again and again. This book makes great arguments for a Liberal education and life-long learning. I'm really feeling motivated to get started reading " the classics".

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