Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
In association with the The Adler-Aquinas Institute and Aquinas School of Leadership
Member of the Alliance for Liberal Learning

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Prisoners, professors discuss great books, life of the mind

David Waters at USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee.

"The Iliad is a tale of rage and desire, delusion and deception, forgiveness and redemption, homecoming and exile.
"As incarcerated women, they can relate."

#education #punishment

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Unreality of Time

John Ellis McTaggart, from Mind: A Quarterly Review of Psychology and Philosophy 17 (1908): 456-473, at DiText


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Who needs the Great Books?

'A personal and political history of Directed Studies—Yale’s boot camp for freshmen who dare, by Molly Worthen, at the Yale Alumni Magazine.

"Directed Studies could have encouraged us to slide into self-indulgent pseudo-philosophy—we had enough of that in late-night hang-outs in the common room, thank you—were it not for the discipline of weekly papers based on close readings of difficult books."


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Defense of Presentism,

By Ned Markosian, available in Dean Zimmerman (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Volume 1 (Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 47-82. Reprinted in Michael Rea (ed.), Arguing About Metaphysics (Routledge, 2009); and in Sally Haslanger and Roxanne Marie Kurtz (eds.), Persistence: Contemporary Readings (MIT Press, 2006), as well as at his website.


'The Internationalists': A timely book that instructs and delights

Bob Kohn, one of the Senior Fellows here at the Center, reviews The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World, by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro, at Amazon.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Classic books find a home on the radio, online and at Eureka Books

The Times-Standard reported,

"In 1993, the North Coast Great Books Discussion Group was founded. Every month the group has been meeting and producing a short radio show called 'Classics Now!' on the KHSU Magazine."


Sunday, September 17, 2017

How do you translate the Quran? New book digs into history

Patrick T. Reardon reviews The 'Koran' in English: A Biography, by Bruce B. Lawrence, at the Chicago Tribune.

"For this new book looking specifically at the English version, Lawrence uses the transliteration Koran in the title and often in the text because it is the word most often used in English in the past and still best known by English speakers. In addition, he often uses the spelling Qur'an. Many news organizations, including the Tribune, employ Quran.

"Lawrence is elaborate in his praise for a 2015 translation American Qur'an, which he describes as an 'illuminated' version of the holy book. In this large-format work, artist Sandow Birk offers each sura beautifully handwritten and framed by scenes of American life. An image from that book is on the cover of The 'Koran' in English."


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Teaching the Constitution

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1787.

"Engaging in a Socratic dialogue with students at St. John’s College in Annapolis, philosopher and educator Mortimer Adler offers insights in 'America’s testament'."
Transcript at Moyers & Company.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Why 'Great Books' Programs are Enjoying a Resurgence in Popularity

Dakota Buhler of George Fox University at Study Breaks.

"Great books programs are founded on the Socratic Method. They generally consist of small cohorts that read through history’s most prominent Western writers, and then discuss the works in a Socratic style. The specific curriculum varies from program to program, but it generally includes authors who have been set apart as great philosophers, theologians, political theorists, scientific thinkers and literary geniuses of their times. These authors’ works become the core texts on which great books programs are built.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Exchange of papers between Leibniz and Clarke

Five papers and replies by Gottfried Leibniz and Samuel Clarke, November 1715 to 9 October 1716, posted by Jonathan Bennett at Early Modern Texts.

#religion #space

Getting the classics back in the classroom

Winston Brady at North State Journal.

"When introducing the iPad 2, Steve Jobs said, 'Technology alone is not enough,' because the best technology needs the liberal arts to stoke its creative fires. Jobs even attributed his edge in the tech world to studying calligraphy, not courses in engineering.Classical education already unites the arts and sciences. In history, students study the Scientific Revolution and its prominent figures; in logic, they learn the rules these thinkers applied in studying the natural world; and in science they conduct experiments with Galileo’s boldness and curiosity."
Here is a video of Mr. Jobs on technology and the liberal arts.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The real reason there are so few conservatives on campus

Damon Linker at The Week.

"Professors are trained as graduate students to become scholars — and scholarship in our time is defined as an effort to make progress in knowledge. The meaning of progress in the hard sciences is fairly obvious. But what does it mean to make progress in our knowledge of, say, English literature? One possibility is to find obscure, previously neglected authors and make a case for their importance. (This could be described as making progress in knowledge by way of expanding the canon.)

"Another possibility is to bring new questions to bear on old, classic texts. But where will those new questions come from if not the concerns of the present?"

(via Elliot Kauffman at National Review)


Monday, September 11, 2017

Why Read Great Books?

David Randall at First Things says

"The problem is when you focus too much on the civic arts and not enough on formation of character."


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Political animal

Lauro Martines reviews Machiavelli's Politics, by Catherine H. Zuckert, Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli’s lifelong quest for freedom, by Erica Benner, and Machiavelli on Liberty and Conflict, edited by David Johnston, Nadia Urbinati and Camila Vergara, at The Times Literary Supplement.

#government #liberty

Saturday, September 9, 2017

How I quit smoking and got a little smarter along the way

Ben Mayfield, Special to The Advocate (Baton Rouge).

"Then one day my secretary announced that Mr. Doe with 'The Great Books of the Western World' was here to see me. My former roommate had a set of the books which I enjoyed reading, and from that time on they were on my wish list. Mr. Doe explained that they had a three-year payment plan with monthly payments of $14.73. We had two small children and were living from payday to payday so I knew we could not justify the added financial burden.

"I was about to inform Mr. Doe that I couldn’t do it, when I had an epiphany. I think it was divine. The monthly payment was equivalent to my smoking cost, which was a budgeted item."

#education #habit #GreatBooksOfTheWesternWorld

Friday, September 8, 2017

Say’s law: supply creates its own demand

The third in a series on "Six big ideas" in economics at The Economist.

"His [Jean-Baptiste Say's] greatest work was A Treatise on Political Economy [1803], a graceful exposition (and extension) of [Adam] Smith’s economic ideas. In Say’s time, as nowadays, the world economy combined strong technological progress with fitful demand, spurts of innovation with bouts of austerity.
"How then did Say explain the woes of his age, the stuffed warehouses, clogged ports and choked markets? He understood that an economy might oversupply some commodities, if not all. That could cause severe, if temporary, distress to anyone involved in the hypertrophied industries. But he argued that for every good that is too abundant, there must be another that is too scarce. The labour, capital and other resources devoted to oversupplying one market must have been denied to another more valuable channel of industry, leaving it under-resourced."
The books is available in several formats at the Online Library of Liberty.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Papineau vs Dennett: a philosophical dispute

Philosophy Editor Tim Crane introduces this debate between David Papineau’s and Daniel Dennett on the nature of mind, at The Times Literary Supplement.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017


David Lewis and Stephanie Lewis at the University of San Diego


Gary Becker’s concept of human capital

The second in a series on "Six big ideas" in economics at The Economist.

"As far back as Adam Smith in the 18th century, economists had noted that production depended not just on equipment or land but also on peoples’ abilities. But before the 1950s, when Becker first examined links between education and incomes, little thought was given to how such abilities fit with economic theory or public policy.
"Doctoral degree in hand, Becker, then in his mid-20s, was hired by the National Bureau of Economic Research to work on a project calculating returns on schooling. What seemed a simple question led him to realise that no one had yet fleshed out the concept of human capital. In subsequent years he developed it into a full-fledged theory that could be applied to any number of questions and, soon enough, to issues previously seen as outside the realm of economics, from marriage to fertility."


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Aquinas Leadership International - September 2017 Update



Jude P. Dougherty
The Catholic University of America

Jude P. Dougherty reports the recent death of our colleague Ken Schmitz. As a memorial to Ken, he has sent along to us the following reflections he delivered at The Catholic University of America under the auspices the JP II Institute as a tribute to Ken when he was leaving Washington for the last time.

The Threat of Free Speech in the University

Roger Scruton in the symposium 'Assault on Higher Education: Reports from the Front' at Modern Age.

"I do not think there is very much censorship in our universities, other than that imposed impromptu by the students and acquiesced in by a weak establishment. But it has been true for a long time that there are orthodoxies in a university that cannot easily be transgressed without penalty, and that the penalty is not imposed on scholarly or academic grounds but on grounds that could fairly be described as ideological."


Monday, September 4, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

James Sloan Allen reviews 'Great Treasury of Western Thought'

"edited with Charles van Doren , [it] is a splendid gathering of important statements from sources as diverse in time and temper as the Old Testament and Sartre, Homer and Einstein."
At The Saturday Review


Saturday, September 2, 2017

ALI 2017 Plenary Session 13: Charles Sanders Peirce & Thomas Sebeok as Philosophical Reformers

Fourth Annual Aquinas Leadership International World Congress: "Augustine, Aquinas, and the Apologetics of the New Reformation(s)"

Chair, Brian Kemple, Aquinas Leadership International

Streamed live on July 15, 2017


Previous session ALI 2017 Plenary Session 12: Remembering John Deely as Colleague & Philosophical Reformer

Monday, August 28, 2017

Additional Bibliography in 'Great Books of the Western World'

Both editions of Great Books of the Western World include Additional Readings for each of the Great Ideas. In the first edition (1952) the works for each idea are divided into

  • I. Works by authors represented in this collection. ...
  • II. Works by authors not represented in this collection. ...
and all these are consolidated in an Additional Bibliography for the set.

In the second edition (1990), list II is further divided chronologically into works from

    • The Ancient World (to 500 A.D.)
    • The Middle Ages to the Renaissance (to 1500)
    • The Modern World (1500 and later)

For example, in the second edition, Time And Western Man (1927), by Wyndham Lewis, is included in the Additional Readings for the Great Idea of Time. Unfortunately, the Additional Bibliography for the set does not indicate the Great Ideas under which the works were listed. In this case, Time was the obvious place to look for it. It's possible it is listed under another idea, but it would likely be time-consuming to check.

Lewis's book is available free on-line at Internet Archive, with Notes including "This is a mirror of the Digital Library of India".

#Time #GreatBooksOfTheWesternWorld

Sunday, August 27, 2017

'Difficult Desire'

This is the title of the September 15th opening lecture by Eva Brann of St. John's College, Annapolis, in this Fall's lecture series presented by the Philosophy Department of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, on the topic of Desire.

Here is the complete listing, which is also where the recordings of the lectures will be linked.

(via Jeff Steele)


The Hedgehog and the Fox

'An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History', by Isaiah Berlin, from The Proper Study of Mankind, at The Crag

(via Great Conversation Reading Group)


Saturday, August 26, 2017

ALI 2017 Plenary Session 12: Remembering John Deely as Colleague & Philosophical Reformer

Fourth Annual Aquinas Leadership International World Congress: "Augustine, Aquinas, and the Apologetics of the New Reformation(s)"

Chair, Peter A. Redpath, Adler-Aquinas Institute

Streamed live on July 15, 2017

P.S. A Sign is What? A Dialogue between a Semiotist and a Realist, by John Deely (in five parts)

"A sign, as ordinarily understood, is simply something that suggests the presence or existence of something else, a perceptible indication of something not immediately apparent. What's so difficult about that? Why should that require the development of a whole new perspective on reality and experience, as so-called "semiotics", as the study of the way signs works, claims? This video, a dialogue between a semiotician and a proponent of "realist" philosophy, addresses directly the question of what is the difference semiotics makes for our understanding of what is a sign."

#logic #sign

Previous session ALI 2017 Plenary Session 11: Tribute to Michael Novak, Mortimer Adler; Etienne Gilson as Colleagues & Reformers

Update: Following session ALI 2017 Plenary Session 13: Charles Sanders Peirce & Thomas Sebeok as Philosophical Reformers