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

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  238 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 131 pages
Published 1952 by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
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David Withun
Jul 17, 2012 David Withun rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, education
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
Oct 14, 2008 Christopher rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Christopher by: Alex Buck
Shelves: education
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
Feb 05, 2015 Sara rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 13, 2014 Krys rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-education, starred
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, ...more
Mar 05, 2017 Kristen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-books
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.
Aug 18, 2016 Ci rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Sep 09, 2013 Adam rated it it was amazing
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.
Joy Caballero
Jun 02, 2017 Joy Caballero rated it liked it
A solid introduction to reading the Great Books of the Western World. There was a lot of emphasis on how a liberal education is what everyone needs. This was published in 1952, so the ideals presented are somewhat outdated, but still fascinating to read. While I do believe that a liberal education is important, I think the author overdid it a bit.
Jun 30, 2011 Paul rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 15, 2010 Cindi rated it it was amazing
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
Christopher Rush
May 20, 2012 Christopher Rush rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jake E. Stief
Jan 06, 2014 Jake E. Stief rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Feb 09, 2012 Sally rated it really liked it
Shelves: great-books
just the extended excerpt:

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
Tim Sully
Oct 26, 2016 Tim Sully rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
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
Apr 11, 2015 Luke rated it liked it
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
Jan 29, 2017 Melinda rated it it was ok
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 ...more
A. Hotzler
Mar 06, 2014 A. Hotzler rated it really liked it
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
Brian C Albrecht
Dec 08, 2011 Brian C Albrecht rated it liked it
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 ...more
Kathy Stone
Apr 15, 2015 Kathy Stone rated it it was amazing
Shelves: from-the-library
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 ...more
Apr 08, 2009 Jill rated it liked it
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....
Jun 26, 2012 Bill rated it it was amazing
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.
Seth Weidman
Feb 13, 2014 Seth Weidman rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
May 20, 2011 Karyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, classics
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...
Ben Wilde
Feb 08, 2012 Ben Wilde rated it it was amazing
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".
Feb 02, 2010 Lara rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent, fast read. Definitely required reading. If Hutchins was this horrified with public education sixty years ago I can only imagine what he would think today. I will be horrified for him.
Murph Hutson
Dec 31, 2012 Murph Hutson rated it it was amazing
Great description of the need for a Liberal Arts education and how to use the Great Books of the Western World.
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An educational philosopher, he was dean of Yale Law School (1927-1929), and president (1929–1945) and chancellor (1945–1951) of the University of Chicago.

While he was president of the University of Chicago, Hutchins implemented wide-ranging and controversial reforms of the University, including the elimination of varsity football. The most far-reaching reforms involved the undergraduate College of
More about Robert Maynard Hutchins...

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“Nobody can decide for himself whether he is going to be a human being. The only question open to him is whether he will be an ignorant undeveloped one or one who has sought to reach the highest point he is capable of attaining.” 32 likes
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