59 Matching Annotations
  1. Last 7 days
    1. The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Education. 27th Printing. Vol. 1. 54 vols. The Great Books of the Western World. 1952. Reprint, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1984.

      I read the first edition.

      Hutchins, Robert M. The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Education. Edited by Robert M. Hutchins and Mortimer J. Adler. 1st ed. Vol. 1. 54 vols. Great Books of the Western World. Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952.

      urn:x-pdf:0ce8391ed9f9f1cfc78c28b6c923abac<br /> Annotation search: https://jonudell.info/h/facet/?user=chrisaldrich&max=100&exactTagSearch=true&expanded=true&addQuoteContext=true&url=urn%3Ax-pdf%3A0ce8391ed9f9f1cfc78c28b6c923abac

  2. Sep 2023
    1. Wills, Garry. “After 54 Great Books, 102 Great Ideas, Now—Count Them !—Three Revolutions.” The New York Times, June 13, 1971, sec. BR. https://www.nytimes.com/1971/06/13/archives/the-common-sense-of-politics-by-mortimer-j-adler-265-pp-new-york.html

      It's not super obvious from the digitized context (text), but this review is in relation to The Common Sense of Politics (1971) by Mortimer J. Adler.

      Wills criticizes Adler and his take in the book as well as the general enterprise of the Great Books of the Western World.

      There seem to be interesting sparks here in the turn of the Republican party in the early 70s moving into the coming Reagan era.

    1. RECOMMENDED READING LIST

      Compare this list to what ultimately became the Great Books of the Western World in 1952. Lots more 20th century writing on it to begin...

    2. Although not all of the books listed are "great" in any of the commonly accepted meanings of the term, all of them will reward you for the effort you make to read them.

      This book was published originally in 1940 and apparently the Great Books of the Western World was hatched in 1943, so this book isn't necessarily a stepping stone to pitching/selling those, though obviously it informs the ideas which led up to its creation.

      Note that it is roughly contemporaneous to his article a year later:

      Adler, Mortimer J. “How to Mark a Book.” Saturday Review of Literature, July 6, 1941.<br /> https://stevenson.ucsc.edu/academics/stevenson-college-core-courses/how-to-mark-a-book-1.pdf

  3. Aug 2023
    1. In general the professors of the humanities and the socialsciences and history, fascinated by the marvels of experi-mental natural science, were overpowered by the idea thatsimilar marvels could be produced in their own fields by theuse of the same methods. They also seemed convinced thatany results obtained in these fields by any other methods werenot worth achieving. This automatically ruled out writerspreviously thought great who had had the misfortune to livebefore the method of empirical natural science had reachedits present predominance and who had never thought ofapplying it to problems and subject matters outside the rangeof empirical natural science.

      Hutchins indicates that part of the fall of the humanities was the result of the rise of the scientific method and experimental science. In wanting fields from the humanities—like social sciences and history—to be a part of this new scientific paradigm, professors completely reframed their paradigms in a more scientific mode and thereby erased the progenitors and ideas in these fields for newer material which replaced the old which was now viewed as "less than" in the new paradigms. This same sort of erasure of Indigenous knowledges was also similarly effected as they were also seen as "less than" from the perspective of the new scientific regime.

      One might also suggest that some of it was the result of the acceleration of life brought on by the invention of writing, literacy, and the spread of the printing press making for larger swaths of knowledge to be more immediately available.

    2. This set of books is offered not merely as an object uponwhich leisure may be expended, but also as a means to thehumanization of work through understanding.16

      Purpose of the Great Books of the Western World

    1. Barzun, Jacques. “The Great Books.” The Atlantic, December 1952. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1952/12/the-great-books/642341/.

      Barzun heaps praise on Great Books of the Western World with some criticism of what it is also missing. He finds more than a few superlative words for the majesty of the Syntopicon.

    2. I he fact is that there arc some three thousand subheadings. So persons who feel that an official ceiling of 102 ideas would cramp their style can breathe freely.

      According to Jacques Barzun (and possibly written in the volumes itself), while the Syntopicon has 102 ideas, there are "some three thousand subheadings."

    3. It is not quite a five-foot shelf: 1 make it four feet eight-and-a-half — standard railroad gauge.

      the five-foot shelf reference is to the Harvard Classics competitor

    1. I like their simplicity and cloth texture, but family members seem to think that my 1952 set of The Great Books of the Western World are a bit on the "dreary looking side" compared with the more colorful books in our home library. (It says something that the 12 year old thinks my yellow Springer graduate math texts are more inviting...) Has anyone else had this problem and solved it with custom printed dust jackets?

      • Has anyone seen them for sale?
      • Made their own?
      • Interested in commissioning some as a bigger group?
      • Used a third-party company to design and print something?

      In doing something like this for fun, I might hope that the younger kids in the house might show more interest in some more lively/colorful custom covers.

      I'm partially tempted to use a classical painting as a display across the spines (a la Juniper Books collections) perhaps using:

      Other thoughts? suggestions?

      Syndication link: https://www.reddit.com/r/ClassicalEducation/comments/15gv2cz/custom_dust_jackets_for_the_great_books_of_the/

  4. Jul 2023
    1. The Editors wish especially to mention their debt to thelate John Erskine, who over thirty years ago began the move-ment to reintroduce the study of great books into Americaneducation, and who labored long and arduously on thepreparation of this set.
    2. We attach importance to making whole works, as distin-guished from excerpts, available; and in all but three cases,Aquinas, Kepler, and Fourier, the 443 works of the 74 auth-ors in this set are printed complete.

      There are 443 works by 74 authors in the Great Books of the Western World. All of them are printed in their entirety except for Aquinas, Kepler and Fourier.

    3. The final decision on the list wasmade by me.

      Robert Hutchins takes sole responsibility for the final decision on the selection for the books which appear in The Great Books of the Western World series.

      One wonders what sort of advice he may have sought out or received with respect to a much broader diversity of topics and writers with respect to his own time. I reminded a bit of the article The 102 Great Ideas (Life, 1948) which highlights a more progressive stance with respect to women and feminism in the examples used.

      See: LIFE. “The 102 Great Ideas: Scholars Complete a Monumental Catalog.” January 26, 1948. Https://books.google.com/books?id=p0gEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA92&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=2#v=onepage&q&f=false. Google Books.

    4. They now have the chance to understandthemselves through understanding their tradition.

      It feels odd that people wouldn't understand their own traditions, but it obviously happens. Information overload can obviously heavily afflict societies toward forgetting their traditions and the formation of new traditions, particularly in non-oral traditions which focus more on written texts which can more easily be ignored (not read) and then later replaced with seemingly newer traditions.

      Take for example the resurgence of note taking ideas circa 2014-2020 which completely disregarded the prior histories, particularly in lieu of new technologies for doing them.

      As a means of focusing on Western Culture, the editors here have highlighted some of the most important thoughts for encapsulating and influencing their current and future cultures.

      How do oral traditions embrace the idea of the "Great Conversation"?

    5. democracyrequires liberal education for all.

      Two of the driving reasons behind the Great Books project were improvement of both education and democracy.

      The democracy portion was likely prompted by the second Red Scare from ~1947-1957 which had profound effects on America. Published in 1952, this series would have considered it closely and it's interesting they included Marx in the thinkers at the end of the series.

    6. We may havemade errors of selection.

      A great admission to make upfront in such a massive endeavor which one hopes to shape the future.

      What does this mean for ars excerpendi writ large? Particularly when it may apply to hundreds of thousands?

  5. Jun 2023
    1. The men who crafted Great Books programs, most prominently John Erskine, Mortimer Adler, and Scott Buchanan, promoted the idea that the reading of classics was a task meant for all students, at all levels, even if the works were translated from their original language. At several colleges, the curricula of undergraduate programs came to be based upon the reading of these Great Books.
  6. Apr 2023
    1. Hutchins, Robert M., Mortimer J. Adler, and William Gorman, eds. The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World, Volume II, Man to World. 1st ed. Vol. 3. 54 vols. The Great Books of the Western World. Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1952.

    1. Hutchins, Robert M., Mortimer J. Adler, and William Gorman, eds. The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World, Volume I, Angel to Love. 1st ed. Vol. 2. 54 vols. Great Books of the Western World. Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1952.

  7. books.google.com books.google.com
    1. Two page spread of Life Magazine article with the title "The 102 Great Ideas" featuring a photo of 26 people behind 102 card indexes with categorized topical labels from Angel to Will.

    2. LIFE. “The 102 Great Ideas: Scholars Complete a Monumental Catalog.” January 26, 1948. https://books.google.com/books?id=p0gEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA92&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=2#v=onepage&q&f=false. Google Books.

      Provides an small example of "the great conversation" on the equality of men and women.

    3. Amidst a number of very gendered advertisements in issue 4 of volume 24 of LIFE magazine from 1948 is a short piece on the pending release of The Encyclopædia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World.

      The piece starts out talking about the 432 classical works written by 71 men and highlights the fact that "Woman, not a main idea, is included [with] in [the topical category] Family Man and Love." The piece goes on by way of example of the work to excerpt portions on Idea number 51: "Man". To show the flexibility of the included Syntopicon categorization they elaborate with 15 excerpted passages from authors from Plato to Freud on Idea 51, subdivision 6b: "Men and Women: their equality or inequality".

      It provides a fantastic mini-study on the emerging conversation on gender studies as seen in a mainstream magazine in 1948.


      Were there any follow up letters to the editor on this topic in subsequent issues? How was this broader piece received with respect to the idea of gender at the time?

    4. A staff of at least 26 created the underlying index that would lay at the heart of the Great Books of the Western World which was prepared in a rented old fraternity house on the University of Chicago campus. (p. 93)

    1. Oakeshott saw educationas part of the ‘conversation of mankind’, wherein teachers induct their studentsinto that conversation by teaching them how to participate in the dialogue—howto hear the ‘voices’ of previous generations while cultivating their own uniquevoices.

      How did Michael Oakeshott's philosophy overlap with the idea of the 'Great Conversation' or 20th century movement of Adler's Great Books of the Western World.

      How does it influence the idea of "having conversations with the text" in the annotation space?

  8. Mar 2023
    1. In 1886, during a lecture on the "pleasure of reading," the British scientist, politician, and man of letters John Lubbock spoke of his wish for "a list of a hundred good books"; in the absence of such, he offered his own selection.
    1. In a postwar world in which educational self-improvement seemed within everyone’s reach, the Great Books could be presented as an item of intellectual furniture, rather like their prototype, the Encyclopedia Britannica (which also backed the project).

      the phrase "intellectual furniture" is sort of painful here...

    1. This is the Deluxe edition of the Great Books of the Western World. There are three versions of the set. the least expensive was cloth-bound. That was the original version published in 1952. In the 1970's a tan edition was issued that was more expensive. The problem is that the binding tends to chip and crack unless it was kept in a dark, refrigerated closet. This set, which is half bound in black Fabricoid (imitation Morocco leather) and half in cloth was the most expensive of the three, costing upwards of $1800 in the mid-Eighties, and the most durable with gilt tops.

      1952, 1970s, 1980s editions and their differences.

  9. Jan 2023
    1. https://press.princeton.edu/series/ancient-wisdom-for-modern-readers

      This appears like Princeton University Press is publishing sections of someone's commonplace books as stand alone issues per heading where each chapter has a one or more selections (in the original language with new translations).

      This almost feels like a version of The Great Books of the Western World watered down for a modern audience?

  10. Dec 2022
  11. Oct 2022
    1. http://www.greyroom.org/issues/60/20/the-dialectic-of-the-university-his-masters-voice/

      “The Indexers pose with the file of Great Ideas. At sides stand editors [Mortimer] Adler (left) and [William] Gorman (right). Each file drawer contains index references to a Great Idea. In center are the works of the 71 authors which constitute the Great Books.” From “The 102 Great Ideas: Scholars Complete a Monumental Catalog,” Life 24, no. 4 (26 January 1948). Photo: George Skadding.

  12. Aug 2022
    1. https://occidental.substack.com/p/the-adlernet-guide-part-ii?sd=pf

      Description of a note taking method for reading the Great Books: part commonplace, part zettelkasten.

      I'm curious where she's ultimately placing the cards to know if the color coding means anything in the end other than simply differentiating the card "types" up front? (i.e. does it help to distinguish cards once potentially mixed up?)

    2. But the real goal of a Great Books reading program is to experience the minds of these authors (something the Schoolmen called connatural knowledge) and imprint whatever value we find there on our souls (i.e. will and intellect). This can only be done through a process of intentional re-reading.
    1. Louis Menand had an interesting article on great books courses recently: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/12/20/whats-so-great-about-great-books-courses-roosevelt-montas-rescuing-socrates.

      If you look closely at those photos of Adler, you'll notice that one is in context and the other is the same image of him cut and pasted onto a set of books.

      Those who are into this broader topic may also appreciate Alex Beam's book "A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books". A while back I remember going though Lawrence Principe's Great Courses lecture series on the History of Science to 1700 which I suspect might help contextualize a tour through the great courses.

      I'm curious if you're adding any other books that Adler et al left off their list?

    1. https://github.com/sajjad2881/NewSyntopicon

      Someone's creating a new digitally linked version of the Syntopicon as text files for Obsidian (and potentially other platforms). Looks like it's partial at best and will need a lot of editing work to become whole.

      found by way of

      Has anyone made a hypermedia rendition of the Syntopicon, i.e. with transcluded windows or "parallel pages" into the indexed texts?<br><br>Many of Adler's Great Books are public domain, so it wouldn't require *so* titanic a copyright issue… pic.twitter.com/UmWiyn5aBC

      — Andy Matuschak (@andy_matuschak) August 17, 2022
      <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
  13. Jun 2022
    1. when Britannica conducted followup research on whether or not the books were actually being read, they found that buyers who really read the books were the exception. The two largest sub-categories among buyers who were more likely to have read the books were housewives and men trained in some sort of technical profession.

      Research by Britannica (source?) indicated that the Great Books of the Western World sold well but were not often read.

      Link to: A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking Owen Gingerich Copernicus

    2. certain sub-currents in their thought. One being the proposition that the original (or translated) texts of the most influential Western books are vastly superior material to study for serious minds than are textbooks that merely give pre-digested (often mis-digested) assessments of the ideas contained therein.

      Are some of the classic texts better than more advanced digested texts because they form the building blocks of our thought and society?

      Are we training thinkers or doers?

    1. Mortimer J. Adler's slip box collection (Photo of him holding a pipe in his left hand and mouth posing in front of dozens of boxes of index cards with topic headwords including "law", "love", "life", "sin", "art", "democracy", "citizen", "fate", etc.)

      Though if we roughly estimate this collection at 1000 cards per box with roughly 76 boxes potentially present, the 76,000 cards are still shy of Luhmann's collection. It'll take some hunting thigs down, but as Adler suggests that people write their notes in their books, which he would have likely done, then this collection isn't necessarily his own. I suspect, but don't yet have definitive proof, that it was created as a group effort for the 54-volume Great Books of the Western World and its two-volume index of great ideas, the Syntopicon.

  14. Jan 2022
    1. Most of the world's great books are available today, in reprint editions.

      Published in 1941, this article precedes the beginning of the project of publishing the Great Books of the Western World for Encyclopedia Britannica, so Adler isn't just writing this from a marketing perspective.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Books_of_the_Western_World

  15. Dec 2021
    1. Discussion is led by an instructor, but the instructor’s job is not to give the students a more informed understanding of the texts, or to train them in methods of interpretation, which is what would happen in a typical literature- or philosophy-department course. The instructor’s job is to help the students relate the texts to their own lives.

      The format of many "great books" courses is to help students relate the texts to their own lives, not to have a better understanding of the books or to hone methods of interpreting them.

      This isn't too dissimilar to the way that many Protestants are taught to apply the Bible to their daily lives.

      Are students mis-applying the great books because they don't understand their original ideas and context the way many religious people do with the Bible?

    2. The idea of the great books emerged at the same time as the modern university. It was promoted by works like Noah Porter’s “Books and Reading: Or What Books Shall I Read and How Shall I Read Them?” (1877) and projects like Charles William Eliot’s fifty-volume Harvard Classics (1909-10). (Porter was president of Yale; Eliot was president of Harvard.) British counterparts included Sir John Lubbock’s “One Hundred Best Books” (1895) and Frederic Farrar’s “Great Books” (1898). None of these was intended for students or scholars. They were for adults who wanted to know what to read for edification and enlightenment, or who wanted to acquire some cultural capital.

      Brief history of the "great books".

  16. Nov 2021
    1. Though firmly rooted in Renaissance culture, Knight's carefully calibrated arguments also push forward to the digital present—engaging with the modern library archives where these works were rebound and remade, and showing how the custodianship of literary artifacts shapes our canons, chronologies, and contemporary interpretative practices.

      This passage reminds me of a conversation on 2021-11-16 at Liquid Margins with Will T. Monroe (@willtmonroe) about using Sönke Ahrens' book Smart Notes and Hypothes.is as a structure for getting groups of people (compared to Ahrens' focus on a single person) to do collection, curation, and creation of open education resources (OER).

      Here Jeffrey Todd Knight sounds like he's looking at it from the perspective of one (or maybe two) creators in conjunction (curator and binder/publisher) while I'm thinking about expanding behond

      This sort of pattern can also be seen in Mortimer J. Adler's group zettelkasten used to create The Great Books of the Western World series as well in larger wiki-based efforts like Wikipedia, so it's not new, but the question is how a teacher (or other leader) can help to better organize a community of creators around making larger works from smaller pieces. Robin DeRosa's example of using OER in the classroom is another example, but there, the process sounded much more difficult and manual.

      This is the sort of piece that Vannevar Bush completely missed as a mode of creation and research in his conceptualization of the Memex. Perhaps we need the "Inventiex" as a mode of larger group means of "inventio" using these methods in a digital setting?

  17. Sep 2021
    1. Book review (and cultural commentary) on Alex Beam's A Great Idea at the Time, (Public Affairs, 2008).

    2. Soon enough the Great Books were synonymous with boosterism, Babbittry, and H. L. Mencken’s benighted boobocracy. They were everything that was wrong, unchic and middlebrow about middle America.”

      what a lovely sentence

    3. When asked for his views on which classic works to include among the Great Books, the science historian George Sarton pronounced the exercise futile: “Newton’s achievement and personality are immortal; his book is dead except from the archaeological point of view.”

      How does one keep the spirit of these older books alive? Is it only by subsuming into and expanding upon a larger body of common knowledge?

      What do they still have to teach us?

    4. In “A Great Idea at the Time,” Alex Beam presents Hutchins and Adler as a double act

      Just the title "A Great Idea at the Time" makes me wonder if this project didn't help speed along the creation of the dullness of the humanities and thereby attempt to kill it?

      What might they have done differently to better highlight the joy and fun of these works to have better encouraged it.

      Too often reformers reform all the joy out of things.