Great Ideas, Great Books is the ongoing, monthly Salon where you will encounter the core texts and core ideas in the western intellectual tradition. Through authors such as Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Milton, Marx, Austen and Eliot, you will wrestle with the basic and enduring questions of what it means to be human: What is right and wrong? How do we come to know things? What do we owe to our families, our society, ourselves? What is happiness? What is a good life? What is a good society? We will talk about justice, morality, beauty, love, honor, death, government, society, goodness, community.
To encourage careful reading, and to fit discussions into busy lives, we keep each month’s selection to a manageable length. For longer works, we read the book over two or more months, or we read substantial selections that present an author’s most important ideas.
During our discussions, we examine a reading from many different angles, puzzling over difficult passages, exploring the intricacies of a plot line, the layers of meaning in a poetic phrase, the subtleties of an argument or the implications of a thesis. We examine the ideas an author has set out, and consider them seriously. We also step back from the details to see whether what an author has to say makes sense and is relevant to us or not.
You don’t need any specialized knowledge or background in classic literature to join Great Ideas, Great Books. It is our expectation that most participants will be reading many of the authors for the first time. All you really need is a willingness to read carefully, listen thoughtfully and entertain new and sometimes-challenging ideas.
Great Ideas, Great Books starts its first year in the ancient Greek world, with Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle. As the program progresses, we will move to later works including those from the Roman world, from the Judeo-Christian scriptural tradition, the middle ages and enlightenment, up to modern thought. Great Ideas is structured as a long-term project, with the flexibility to direct our focus to differing topics and time periods according to the interests of the group.
A sample of first-year readings in Great Ideas, Great Books:
Homer, The Iliad, Books 1 – 12
Homer, The Iliad, Books 13 – 24
Herodotus, The Persian Wars, selection
Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, selection
Sophocles, Oedipus Rex
Plato, Apology, Crito, Phaedo
Plato, Republic, Books 1 -5
Plato, Republic, Books 6 – 10
If you would like to request this study or have any questions about it, please contact us.