Great writers of the western world
Jan 18, Dobook rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Anyone with an open mind and a lot of time Recommended to Dobook by: A dozen or so years ago, someone recommended to me a book list in How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. As Wikipedia was not yet invented, I got the book from here library and scanned the list into my computer. This is what led me to the Great Books of hhe Western World.
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What does "Great" actually mean, though? Are the Great Books really all that great? That is true of people as well as books.
I would go even further than that. It can lead to a kind of snobbism that keeps us from an honest interaction with the work in question. Samual Pepys, a Member of Parliament in 17th-century England, noted in his diary: I saw, I confess, greag good dancing and some handsome women, which was all my pleasure.
The same is true of many other works that are now among the Great Books. They gained a certain status through a variety of historical reasons—by chance, if you will. Why then read the Great Books? Having said this, I do think that there is a lot of value to reading the Great Source. Otherwise I would hardly be writing this.
To use a somewhat imperfect analogy, I tend to view reading the Great Books much as I do traveling. This has enriched my life and broadened my horizon. The next paragraph contains a long list of personal reminiscences; feel free to skip it. I flew as a volunteer to Israel, training dogs and helping handicapped people, at times equipped with a gas mask due to feared attacks from Iraq. I wwestern gotten to know the various people groups of South Africa only a few years after the end of Apartheid. I have sat with the Maasai oc Tanzania and explored the hinterlands of Africa.
Fhe have been a guest of a major faith healer in Nigeria and gotten a glimpse into the crazy please click for source of Lagos. I had a long ride in an old Egyptian taxi while smoke was rising happily out of the blaring radio.
I have traveled in a small boat to a remote village in the jungle between Malaysia and Indonesia, eating grreat and iguana which were much tastier than the slimy slices of sea cucumbers I had at a fancy Christmas dinner in Singapore. I have roamed the streets of Melbourne, watched people dance Tango in Buenos Aires, gotten married in Loveland, Colorado, gone up to the Arctic circle in Finland, counted sheep on the Faroe Islands, and visited many European countries.
Ah yes, and for the past six years I have endured the Irish rain. In a similar way, I have been at the battle of Troy and witnessed its fall: I have accompanied Odysseus on his fateful voyage home, and I have equally accompanied Aeneas who left the burning city to lead to the founding of a new city, Rome: I have walked through the Agora in Athens and discoursed with Socrates: I have witnessed the birth of Christianity and listened to its founding figures.
I have sat with Boethius and thought about the consolation writwrs philosophy as Antiquity grew to a close. I have been with Chaucer on the road to Canterbury, gone with Dante down into the underworld, and from there, well, the story branches out into too many directions to recount here. Both my wrters travels and my inner travels have given me eyes to see the world, thousands of eyes, as if viewing the earth from thousands of different alien stars, yet remaining on earth myself.
All these different books and places have freed me from the mental prison of parochialism, experiencing a breadth and depth, a colorfulness that the gray walls of provincial narrowness can never provide. I have tasted, I have seen, I have listened, I have talked, I have gotten a feel for what it is like to be other than me. Yet there is still a me, richer than before.
By daring to be more than myself, the self has grown, because it is nourished by a diet of three thousand years. The question of whether I agree or disagree with the Maasai in Tanzania or Socrates in Athens is, in a sense, secondary. The main point is that I have been there, that I have shared a table with both.
Sure, the Great Books raise countless issues that are extremely important, and it can make a huge difference how we respond to them. Whether one agrees more with Marx or with Adam Smith, for instance, can make a rather significant difference in society. But still, whether I personally agree or disagree is not the main issue for me.
Of course, there is also a certain sense in which parochialism is comforting. If I had always remained in the small German village in which I grew up, and if I had never read anything but the local paper, I might have a greater sense of security and sureness in my narrow opinions.
Traveling far and wide and reading the Great Books have probably robbed me of the parochial comfort I might have had. I have lost much of the patriotism I might have possessed.
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I like to see myself as a cosmopolitan, appreciating the cultural heritage of my own background, but not really identifying with any one nation and that nation alone as "my" country. Likewise, there is no doubt comfort in mostly reading books that confirm the views one already has. Also, just like traveling, reading the Great Books is not always exciting.
There are more exciting things to do in life than sitting around in airports for hours due to some delay. Yet, in great writers of the western world nothing thesis writers in hyderabad the great considered their challenges, I consider both traveling and reading great books to belong to the most valuable experiences of my life.
Reading is like traveling? Comparing traveling to reading the Great Books is an imperfect analogy, though, as analogies usually are and as I mentioned above, I think. For instance, I travel for entirely peaceful purposes and try to be respectful of local customs.
What does "Great" actually mean, though? Fittingly, ribald exuberance has a name: But still, whether I personally agree or disagree is not the main issue for me. Anyone with an open mind and a lot of time Recommended to Dobook by:
In contrast, even though I also try to be respectful of the times and views of the authors I read, there is much greater room for combat with the authors than with the people I meet on my travels. One can wrestle with great authors in a way that one hopefully does not do with people of other cultures.
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Ironically, one of the things I am inclined to criticize most about some of the Great Authors is the way they criticized each other, especially some of the German philosophers. But that is not far from the attitude of the likes of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein.
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Even Kant, though a bit more polite, was rather grandiose and overly confident in his claims. In fact, I sometimes wonder if their success was not in large part due to their overblown confidence in their own philosophy.
Nietzsche can hardly serve as a good example of how to read books, since he stopped reading books altogether at some point, maintaining that many a good mind has been spoiled by too much reading. Are the books truly great or are they mostly just a pile of pretentious great writers of the great writers of the western world world poo-poo, dished up as something gourmet? Overall, I think, they are truly great, even if there is an unhealthy dose of pretension mixed into it. For their sheer influence alone, and for providing a rich diet of three thousand years, I give them five stars.
There is good stuff in other traditions too.