top of page

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are the "Great Books?"

The so-called "Great Books" consist of a myriad of written and rhetorical works that commune with one another in a perpetual "Great Conversation" of fundamental ideas across time. The Great Books are the primary source material for the disciplines known as the "liberal arts" or "the humanities." In practice, the Great Books consist of many written works across a wide range of topics, that have since been divided into the disciplines of philosophy, logic, theology, math, science, politics, literature, history, economics, and so on. While different cultures have their own unique and profound canonized Great Books, The Great Conversation primarily focuses upon the Great Books of the Western World, as its founders are Westerners who have been steeped in the Western Canon.

How are the Great Books and liberal arts relevant today?

Socratesperhaps perfidiouslyonce declared: "I am wise because I know that I know but little at all." Irregardless of his intention, Socrates's maxim holds true and inquiry into the nature of reality and the fundamental paradox of the human experience, fosters a sense of humility and civility towards others and the world at large.

 

It has been said the true purpose of the Great Books--especially of the Medieval Trivium and Quadrivium which formed the basis of the modern liberal artsis to help us become better and more humane by forming and refining our moral disposition. In an age filled with rancor, rage, dogmatism, polarization, and stifled and infantilized public discourse, the need for the Great Books is as great as ever.

What is the difference between liberal studies and the liberal arts?

There has been in recent times, a push for "liberal studies" in the universities of the world, but liberal studies bares little resemblance to the traditional "liberal arts." As opposed to the liberal arts which is grounded upon timeless works of great significance, liberal studies tends to apply the liberal educational methodology and its mode of inquiry, upon the self, social group, and matters of historical contingency and happenstance. Hence while the liberal arts wrestle and interact with primary—albeit unresolvable and nebulous—fundamental ideas in a bid to orient oneself towards Truth in the pursuit of happiness which may be actualized through the "Good Life," liberal studies prioritize the investigation of—what the Great Conversation deems are—secondary and ancillary classifications and identifiers, such as race, class, sex, gender, and so on. In this way, it would seem that liberal studies are born from existential angst and despair, whereas the true and genuine liberal arts, direct the self in pursuit of that which is greatest and most perfect, thereby conquering humanity's myopic and self-aggrandizing tendency toward egoism and vanity.

Have the liberal arts proper been displaced?

The liberal arts tradition which began to form in the Classical world of Greece and Rome—and was solidified and canonized in Medieval Christendom—has been under attack throughout modernity, which began in earnest during the Enlightenment of the 17th Century. This fact can be seen all around the modern world where science has become an idol by which to expand man's power over nature, rather than as an inductive instrument by which Truth may be measured and ascertained. We believe the driving impetus of this is man's innate propensity for hubris and arrogance. And thus, the dominant mode of education in the modern world is merely vocational training and life preparation: necessary pursuits no doubt, but lesser ones which tend to neglect more primary, moral and spiritual concerns that are necessary for a human being to order his/her soul in accordance with reality.

Fortunately, there does seem to be a subculture of Great Books derived education and classically-oriented individuals in the USA forming—and we aim to be at the forefront of this movement in any way we can.

bottom of page