The Great Conversation
“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop”
When I happened across a copy of The Great Books of the Western World at my local library weeks ago, I noticed the first volume was entitled The Great Conversation. That seemed like as good a place as any to start, so I pulled it off the shelf and started to peruse it. I was instantly hooked. To quote from an email I sent to an acquaintance later:
I flipped to the Preface and then I couldn’t put it down. I read through all of the Preface and the first two chapters as well before I could let go of it to check out my books and go home. While I read I would often stop and catch myself caressing the pages mumbling to myself “This is it! This is what I’ve been looking for!”
It seems silly, I suppose. I know I felt silly at the time, but I really couldn’t help myself. And mind you, this was the introduction. I mean really, who gets all excited about an introduction? Well, I did. Because that introductory volume explains why the collection was compiled, why they felt a classical education was so important for everyone to have, and what was wrong even that long ago with Western education. Much of what I read was made up of things I had thought or felt but had never been able to explain so well.
So that is where we will begin – with the beginning. I will be rereading it today and posting some of my thoughts on it here on Monday. I cannot find any legitimate copy online of the complete book, but Encyclopedia Britannica offers a PDF of the shorter version from the Second Edition here.