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The Great Conversation

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  128 ratings  ·  24 reviews
The Great Conversation is the ongoing process of writers and thinkers referencing, building on, and refining the work of their predecessors. This process is characterized by writers in the Western canon making comparisons and allusions to the works of earlier writers. As such it is a name used in the promotion of the Great Books of the Western World published by Encyclopæd ...more
131 pages
Published 1952 by Encyclopædia Britannica Inc.
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Rashid Saif
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wish this book was available in mass market paperback so I can shove it down the throat of everyone who ever said: "What's the point of philosophy? What's the point of literature? What's the point of poetry? Did Shakespeare ever help anyone build a plane?". This book tells you exactly the "point" of philosophy, poetry, history and literature: the Liberal Arts.

The Liberal Arts are not meant to tell you how to build a plane nor how to cure an illness but rather on how to live and how to achieve
Talbot Hook
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Note to those concerned: The use of "man" hereafter is to stand for "humankind", inclusive of all. If this word offends your sensibilities and prevents you from reading such a book, the fault lies predominantly with you, and not the author. We should all be able to entertain ideas regardless of the language in which they are expressed; it is the content that matters, in this case.

"The tradition of the West is embodied in the Great Conversation that began in the dawn of history and that continues
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
Not exactly timeless, though it is interesting to hear the bemoaning of the state of education in the 50's. I wonder if it is really any worse now or just more of the same? It is impossible not to notice the "cold war" feeling of some sections.

Honestly, the only thing that really bothered me is how much the author reiterates the necessity of a liberal education. I can't help but feel that I am not the one who needs convincing as I am clearly attempting to read the "Great Books." There is also a
Naomi Ruth
I enjoyed it. Well thought out, applicable to now. Useful for helping me to understand and appreciate my own education and why it is important that I am involved with giving my own students a classical/liberal education.
Mandy Dale
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
To-the-point synopsis of why select books were add Hutchins' and Adler's "syntopica". The authors broach generalized book descriptions of selected Western authors with an apologetical description of their literary selections in a number of broad categories.

Not a demanding critique but insightful look at 25 centuries of classic literature. Will remain essential for myself and students as we discern the question, "Why the classics?" and which ones to read during the limited high school years.
Maria Yohn
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Perhaps the best defense of liberal arts education that I've ever read. ...more
Julia Fagnilli
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book. It is applicable today, 66 years after it was written. Looking forward to reading the Great Books that I inherited from my father.
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
excellent overview of the importance of a liberal education. I want all my kids to read this.
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
The most inspiring promotion of a liberal arts education I have ever read.
Joshua Best
May 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Great Conversation is a compelling piece that challenges 20th and 21st century educational recipients to question the quality and purpose of the education they received. In 1952 the editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica published 54 volumes they titled the Great Books of the Western World. The Great Conversation is the first volume in this series and presents the case that both the concept and quality of a liberal education has been lost to the world.

What should be the goal of education?
Does m
Jacob Aitken
Hutchins, Robert. The Great Conversation: Substance of a Liberal Education.

If Robert Hutchins can answer this question, then this introduction is a resounding success: Why do I need to read from this canon of books? He gives an initial answer: “It is the task of each generation to reassess the tradition in which it lives” (Hutchins xi).

I’ll give my own example. What is “justice?” The conservative says it is letting each man keep his own. The socialist says it is having access to my pocketbook. A
John Lim
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
As an introduction to a massive anthology of books, I find this primer to be extremely helpful. Hutchins clarifies the purpose of the series as a reintroduction of the “classics” for the “liberal” education of all. “Liberal” here refers not to a political affiliation, but to an education that encompasses all subjects. We in the 21st century have subdivided education into specific tracks, such as the science or the humanities, to the exclusion of others. Presumably, this is for the purpose of spe ...more
Venkatesh G
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-books
The thesis of this book is very simple. A democracy can only thrive if its citizens possess a liberal education. If they don't, democracy would degenerate into demagoguery. Some quotes from the book:

"We believe that the reduction of the citizen to an object of propaganda, private and public, is one of the greatest dangers to democracy... The reiteration of slogans, the distortion of the news, the great storm of propaganda that beats upon the citizen twenty-four hours a day all his life long mean
Edmund Charlton
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gbww, anthology, ebook
While it did repeatedly bring up the importance if a liberal education, I did not find it too annoying. Being trained as an engineer with almost no liberal arts education when I went to college, this volume did convince me more that I should be reading this set. When I was younger I wouldn't be caught dead with a "liberal arts" book, but the importance of philosophy for a well rounded mind brought me to Adler and then to this set. If you need some reassurance about reading The Great Books of the ...more
Alex Shrugged
Fabulous. It is an outline of recommended Great Books and the order in which one should read them and why.

I have been through the first 2 years of suggested readings. There are 10 years of reading in all but I never seem to get past year two. I am starting again, from the beginning.

FYI, this book is the introduction to the entire set of Great Books of the Western World from Encyclopedia Britannica. I own the set except for the 2 volumes of Shakespeare. Most of the book "The Great Conversation" c
John Weis
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, great-books
Excellent, enjoyable read.

Hutchins and the editors produce a view of education as the means of man reaching his full intellectual, moral, and social potential. The editors provide a convincing introduction to the necessity of the Great Books as the means to a liberal arts education. Hutchins delivers a stunning, incisive critique of the American educational system as leaving its participants woefully underprepared to even engage this sort of material (and this all in the 1950s!).

My only critici
Mike Glaser
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting in that this contains a very damning essay about the university system and this was written in the 1950's. Obviously, Mr. Adler had no idea just how far our universities could continue to fall. A good defense of the necessity to read the Great Books and what we lose when we turn our backs on them. ...more
Ethan Chitty
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This particular volume serves as a justification of the creation of the set, an apologia for the editorial discretion in choices, an aside to discuss volumes not included, and a few methods for approaching the other volumes. It is effective, succinct, and though the success of their set achieving its stated goals may be debated, this slim volume does a good job of introducing the series.
Joel Everett
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a revised edition from 1990 as opposed to the original version in 1952. Although the stances put forth by Adler and Hutchinson are largely rejected by current post-modern viewpoints; there can still be value gleaned from understanding the cultural, historical, and literary framework of Europe, England, and America until Word War II.

Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Revisiting the discussion on the advantages to a liberal education. Liberal educations, in and of themselves may not seem to lend themselves to the betterment of society. That said, Liberal educations are one of the most inspiring and provocative methods for expanding the mind.
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Far-sighted and dire criticisms of the American education system even going back to the 1950's, this makes a compelling case of why liberal arts education should be universal in a democratic system. I think some of his ideas about world law and disarmament are idealistic and naive ...more
Jul 30, 2020 added it
I can not express enough of what this collection has meant to me. He expresses problems arising of our liberal education system that create some of our current issues today. They were beginning to see the breakdown of proper education back then.
Grade: 94% / 'A' ...more
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Robert Maynard Hutchins, was an American educational philosopher, president (1929–1945) and chancellor (1945–1951) of the University of Chicago, and earlier dean of Yale Law School (1927–1929). He was the husband of novelist Maude Hutchins.

A graduate of Yale University and its law school, Hutchins joined the law faculty and soon was named Dean, where he gained notice for Yale's development of the

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