Hutchins promulgated the idea of the "great ideas" and the "great conservation." According to Hutchins, a set of great ideas has been enthusiastically discussed by Western thinkers in every generation from Homer to Hemingway. These ideas have an everlasting quality because men in every generation and every place are interested in them. This is where Hutchins' perennialist philosophy came into play.
Hutchins' younger colleague Mortimer Adler identified 102 great ideas, and Hutchins' committee identified 130 great Western thinkers and writers. Adler's Synopticon summarizes what these great thinkers said about each of the great ideas.