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, 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?

Socrates--perhaps perfidiously--once 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 arts--is 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 focuses primarily on the objective, infinite, and absolute, liberal studies redirect its inquiry upon the self and social group. Hence while the liberal arts deal with great and fundamental ideas in a bid to attain Truth, liberal studies delve into questions of secondary classifications and identifiers, such as race, class, sex, gender, and so on. In this way, liberal studies are born of an existential angst, where as the liberal arts direct the self in pursuit of that which is greater and more perfect.

Are the liberal arts under attack? And if so, why?

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, all around the modern world the liberal arts and Classical education is being displaced and replaced with both liberal studies and STEM, which is in essence Francis Bacon's applied science.