Aquinas's Commentary On The Metaphysics

#153- Hutchins’ “The Great Conversation” Part 1

In 1943, two University of Chicago educators, Robert Maynard Hutchins and Mortimer Adler, launched a series of Great Books seminars with prominent Chicagoans.

By 1952, Hutchins had penned “The Great Conversation,” an essay promoting the Great Books of the Western World published by Encyclopædia Britannica and intended for the masses.

The Great Conversation embodies the tradition of the West that began in the dawn of history and continues to the present day— a tradition Online Great Books strives to keep alive.

Both Alder and Hutchins point out that these books act as a principal instrument of liberal education. “Until lately the West has regarded it as self-evident that the road to education lay through great books,” Hutchins writes.

However, Scott and Karl disagree on Hutchins’ metaphysical judgment of the books lodged in his salesmanship. Scott says, “I think they need to be read because there is something divine and special about these books and they are edifying to the individual.”

Karl adds, “I think you should read the Great Books, dear listener. I don’t think necessarily everyone ought to read the Great Books. More people ought to read them than do, but a lot of people can’t read.”

Tune in to learn more about the substance of a liberal education. Brought to you by


Scott Hambrick 0:09
Welcome to the online great books podcast brought to you by online great where we talk about the good life, the great books, great conversation, and great ideas

Brett Veinotte 0:30
Hello, dear listener, this is Brett and welcome back to the online great books Podcast. Today, Scott and Karl begin their two part discussion on the great conversation, an essay, written in 1952 by Robert Maynard Hutchins. And this essay was originally written for the first edition of The Great Books of the Western world, which Encyclopedia Britannica published, you can find the essay in its entirety. In case you’re impatient because Scott and Karl really don’t get much beyond the introduction. They don’t get out of the Roman numeral pages in this first hour. And they mentioned a 14 page, abridged version. But on the Encyclopedia Britannica blog, you can find a 28 page downloadable PDF version. So maybe that’s the longer version in this blog post Britannica assures you that this essay has been praised, even by critics of the Great Books program. We’ll see what Scott and Karl think, make sure you come back next week, I really liked the beginning of Part two of this discussion, where Scott and Karl talk a little bit about the specific qualities of physical books, most important to them. And there’s a little bit of a preview of that right at the end of this hour as well. They’re just starting to get into it. So thank you for your time and attention. And here we go.

Scott Hambrick 2:02
I’m Scott Hambrick. I’m Karl Schudt. And you should go to That’s it. And get on the mailing list there. We had enrollment close Monday at midnight, Karl. Is it Monday at midnight or Sunday at midnight? I don’t know. However, that works. And I did the orientation last night and got there a little early on the Zoom classroom thing and chatting people up. Hey, where’d you hear about us and so many of them said the podcast but they didn’t use the discount code.

Karl Schudt 2:37
You’re taking money out of my baby’s mouth, right?

Scott Hambrick 2:40
That’s how Karl gets. That’s how Karl makes his nut every month guys. So you got to go use it. When you sign up. You use the discount code. OGBpodcast. Also, if you go to online, great and sign up. He gets credit for that one, too. So that’s how we know this show works. And we’re not just talking into the void. So help a cracker out. Come on.

Karl Schudt 3:12
Yeah, I’d appreciate that. Glad you’re listening.

Scott Hambrick 3:16
We need to start another show. We’ve talked about it for almost a year. Uh huh. Mm hmm. What show is this? Your works in days podcast,

Karl Schudt 3:28
yeah. homesteading, to rookies. Scott’s less of a rookie than I am attempting to grow stuff on one’s own property. He is brutal. That’d be fun. That’d be fun works in days is that poem by Hesiod, which tells you how to farm from 3000 years ago? Yeah. When? When you want to do it? No.

Scott Hambrick 3:49
I don’t know. You’re gonna have to tell me.

Karl Schudt 3:54
You’ve got plenty of room in your schedule. You have got nothing going on over there

Scott Hambrick 3:58
right now yet? You know, you tell me. And we’ll do we’ll do that. I think we have some members that online. Great Books are hardcore, successful long term homestead folks like Todd, that would be good to have on the show and talk. We’ll share all the things that we are screwing up and Erica, does it all on an acre? Yeah, there’s some interesting people and it’s gonna matter. It’s gonna matter. I think

Karl Schudt 4:24
so. Yeah, it wouldn’t be a terrible thing. If it mattered. I almost wanted to say I hope it didn’t, you know, I hope I hope everything remains prosperous and easy as it has. You know, where you can go to the store and everything you want is there in season or out of season and it doesn’t cost very much and you know, the number one health problem of the poor is obesity. It’s crazy. That might not stay that way, given some geopolitical events, and so maybe you ought to plant some potatoes and turnips and other high calorie crops that you can do I did potatoes a year ago and it was two years ago is terrible. Apparently when the soil gets hot, well, it wasn’t terrible. I did get potatoes. But I was doing them and containers in my yard back here. Because I live currently in a stupid suburb where you have to have a lawn and I can’t just dig it all up. And even if I did, they tore up the topsoil anyway. Right. So it’s just, you know, an inch and a half Assad. But potatoes, apparently Eric told me about this. If you do container potatoes, the problem is that when the soil gets hot, the potatoes quit growing baked potatoes. And so you get small potatoes, which I did, and they were wonderful. But they were small, because I had these black fabric bags that I was using as containers. And there was no good so I’m gonna do better next time.

Scott Hambrick 5:49
That’s all you can do curl is better. That’s all we can do. I tossed out the idea of maybe doing some longer form shows, you know, I don’t know, three four shows ago where we would maybe we would read some longer books and not put out a show every week. And we had some people email about it. Derek was like Derek says, he says, Good day. I’m a regular listen to you LGBT podcast and an OG be member on a bit of a hiatus due to the amount of reading I must do for the degree I am pursuing for what it’s worth. I should tell you, I’ll just quit. I know. He says, For what it’s worth, I should tell you that I got more out of OGB sessions that I do school, and currently get it far better philosophy, education from the podcast and any course I have yet taken and can’t wait to get back to the community. It’s pretty kind. Thank you. He says, from the perspective of a fan, the more shows that we can get the better. As it stands, he currently listens to each of the shows as soon as they’re available in may listen to them many times. That said, if you want to give a new format a try. I support the experiment, you just may need to provide a few recommendations or the other worthy podcasts for those of us with a weekly OTB habit. There are no other worthy podcasts. I mean, they’re not like the one that’s sponsored by national VT review is terrible. The Hillsdale College one terrible.

Karl Schudt 7:16
Wait, wait, hold on. There are other worthy podcasts but not for what we do.

Scott Hambrick 7:22
Yeah, if you want to go listen to some wacky stuff you get listen to the hermetic podcast. It’s very interesting. You know, I’m not interested in in just normal stuff. I mean, you can get that anywhere. You know, the hermetics podcast is pretty darn weird and interesting. The host meta Nomad is a super smart guy, and has the just the best questions for his guests. That’s a good one. Brett over at The Art of Manliness, we always love Brett, Brett’s been a big help to us, you always got course good listen to to that one while at last. Here’s an interesting one, Karl. Here’s a very interesting one. He says, I suggest this is Andrew. He says I was just creating a Patreon or something similar where people can join a pay a certain amount each month in order to gain access to certain content. So you could have content like foots Civil War series, or whatever else that might be more niche or long form that you wanted to do. And then he says, in addition to the regular podcast, listen, that’s the problem. Come on, man. But that could be interesting to maybe, maybe convert this to something like that, where they, you know, got to attend our recordings or something like that, or I don’t know. I don’t know. So like only fans, when that’s right. Then the ugliest only fans ever. Something like that could be interesting.

Karl Schudt 8:54
Well, years ago, when I was thinking about getting into this great books thing, the way you would do it was you would go be a tutor at one of the colleges that do it. And I was told by one of the tutors at St. John’s and Albuquerque. The one in New Mexico. Yeah. No, it’s the Santa Fe, Santa Fe. You become a sleep-deprived creature and you drink lots and lots of coffee. So you know adding shows, I’d love to add shows. But I finished this great conversation thing last night at 11 o’clock and then I pulled out horses odes because I need to get that up to speed for seminar tonight. And yep, you know, with all the other stuff going on, so I feel like an athlete of reading

Scott Hambrick 9:44
you are Karl look at you. You have the kind of body that only out of reading athlete could have.

Karl Schudt 9:52
I’m not sure if that’s an insult.

Scott Hambrick 9:55
Well, there’s some Midwest right now is like you just said you’re going to start to notice Oh, I know. But it but the homestead one that’s just going to be as griping about the week like, what’s the prep, there’s gonna there’s not going to be any prep to that show it this is what we did this week. This is what we killed here. These are the plants that died or you know whatever. God Brett bless had Brett. You know, I had a I had a guy. Most people really like Brett’s commentary ahead of the show, and I know I do. We never talked about

Karl Schudt 10:35
love it. Yeah, it’s the only reason I ever listened to our podcast is I listened to Brett’s comments and then I shut it off. Because I don’t want to hear me.

Scott Hambrick 10:42
Yeah, you need to you need to listen. You need to listen, barely want to hear you. It’s it’s it’s so good. He didn’t listen. But we never talk about what he’s gonna say. And it’s always he’s always on point. He so he’s already said what we’re going to be listening to or talking about today. It’s this essay called the great conversation. That’s out of the front of your Encyclopedia Britannica. Great Books of the Western world set. It’s by Robert M. Hutchins, I think he was the president. I think he was the president of the University of Chicago in the 40s and 50s. And maybe even the 60s. This is a mass. Some people may not know Carl Hutchins was the president at the University of Chicago when he found out about this Adler guy and he hired him. I think Adler may have had a part time job or an adjunct job or something like that at Columbia, I think Scott when he hired him to come to the University of Chicago, and they gave him a great deal of support. Adler was good on television and radio, and became an advocate for the entire United States. Man, every man, woman and child reading the great books of the Western world, University of Chicago was fortunate enough to have fortunate enough to have the University of Chicago Press where they had their own, they owned the right, or at least had staffers there who had the rights to some very, very good translations of a lot of the Greeks, Greek works. Richmond Latimore and David Greene were there they had all the the what are still probably the best translations of the Greek plays. And some other things. I think they had Fitzgerald the right to the Fitzgerald, Iliad, for example, I think so but they weren’t in that in a perfectly good position to bring these books to a wider audience. And then television appeared and Adler actually did a television show about reading these great books. He wrote a book called How to read a book, and all of this. I mean, Adler was an industrious and a tireless advocate for reading the great books. But Hutchins put put wheels under his machine or gate or gave him resources that he might not otherwise have had. After working on this for quite a while, they cut a deal, University Chicago, somehow I don’t know the legal particulars of this because you cut a deal with the Encyclopedia Britannica people to publish a 52 volume set of the great books of the Western world. Adler insisted on having an an index to all of the topics for all 52 that spanned all 52 of these volumes. He called that index to sin Topcon it covers, I think, 103 what he calls the great ideas, and shows every pertinent passage from all of the authors across all 52 volumes. They busted their budget by about 3x From what I understand and it went overlong to come up with this. It was mostly coming up with some Topcon Encyclopedia Britannica, put that set out in 1952. And you’ll still see him every now and then maybe your grandparents had one. There. I’ve got it. I’ve got I have three of them. Encyclopedia Britannica was the most expensive of the encyclopedias. I had a World Book Encyclopedia that I stole one piece at a time, like Johnny Cash. I couldn’t

Karl Schudt 14:07
afford Johnny Cash stole the car, right?

Scott Hambrick 14:11
Yep, I carried it off in the library one piece at a time when I was in seventh grade statute of limitations is up on that.

Karl Schudt 14:20
Now hold on, if you’d waited, you know, if you’d waited 15 years the library would have given it to you. Right. Right. Because libraries don’t have books anymore. Now. I know. You know, they remove the books, half the books that I that I’ve got in my collection. I have liberated from libraries.

Scott Hambrick 14:36
Yeah, the library sales and stuff.

Karl Schudt 14:39
Oh god, I have let I have Thomas Aquinas in Latin. Like we know English. It’s an old binding for volume set. They didn’t want it anymore because who is going to read it? Karl except me.

Scott Hambrick 14:50
Athlete of books, Karl Schudt.

Karl Schudt 14:53
I have a patristic lexicon of the Greek language. Where are you going to find that

Scott Hambrick 15:00
Well, I know where you found it. But yeah. hard to come by what sir? Well, I’ll tell you where you’ll find it. You’ll find it on a b, e Or eBay. And then when it comes, you’ll buy it. And when it comes in, you’ll open it, and it’ll have a stamp in it. Chicago Public Library Amhurst university library, you know, where they retired the book. Almost every interesting book I’ve bought in the last 10 years was ex libris. Encyclopedia Britannica sent people door to door to sell sets of encyclopedias and the great books of the Western world, you could buy it in a couple of different bindings. If you’re really flush, you could even get the fitted bookcase that it fit in perfectly, and they would deliver it to your house. It is my suspicion that most of the Encyclopedia Britannica great books of the Western world sets that you see were actually thrown in just sweeten the regular deal for the the big encyclopedia. That big encyclopedia in 1952 was like $900, if I’m not mistaken. I mean, it was like new car money. When I was a kid, in the late 70s, Encyclopedia Britannica was like four grand, and people would make payments on them. So a lot of those sets were thrown in. But wait, there’s more, the guy would say and he would give you a set of those. And so a lot of them were never read. Most of them were never read. I have a third edition. That is all in the cellophane. Yeah, I’ve seen it. But this essay here, the great conversation is out of the front of that book. These men were true believers, Hutchins, and Adler. And the rest of the really the rest of the Advisory Committee, which included Stringfellow, Barr, and Erskine, and so many of the names that you know, are their true believers. And being true believers, there are a lot of things that can believe and a whole lot more things that they can’t believe. I am a recovering true believer. And I have read this and led seminar discussions of this essay many, many times over the last 567 years. In my reading of this has changed my opinion of this, this essay has changed a lot. And I’m here to shoot on it. Let’s go.

Karl Schudt 17:21
It’s not entirely terrible, it’s salesmanship. There are there are many good things that he says about books. I still think he’s right that well, no, I don’t think he’s right. I think you ought to read the great books, dear listener, I don’t think necessarily that everybody ought to read the great books more people ought to read them then do but a lot of people can’t read. A lot

Scott Hambrick 17:47
of people can’t read my home group. I think I’ve told the story on the show before but I’ll tell it again. My home book group is comprised of it’s mostly guys, no, it’s all man at this point, we’d had some ladies that joined it and they dropped away. It’s all men, they are from a 25 to 71 years old. There are several of them that have master’s degrees. They are engineers, professional people, high IQ people, frankly. And we found that we didn’t really know how to read. We were taught to read to skim and scan we were taught to read for the quiz on Friday, we were taught to read or or we were habituated to read a technical manual, like you know, I’m going to flip through here until I find the few pages I need to know how to select this particular Eyebeam for this application, but not read the whole thing. We were scammers and scanners, we had a very utilitarian way of reading things and it doesn’t work for a close reading of this of this good material. So these are literate people, you know, and we had to back up and go get Adler’s book, how to read a book, and remediate our breeding so that we could go on and do a good job with this. So we’re supposedly literate, there are people that are functionally illiterate, I mean, lots of them. And it’s growing emoticons and text messages and 10 things they don’t want you to know about. You know, yeah,

Karl Schudt 19:15
the saddest four letters in the English language are TLDR, right?

Scott Hambrick 19:20
If you’re smarter, you just say QED.

Karl Schudt 19:25
Well, let me start with the first and second paragraph on page X III, so you people at home can get your own. Because I know you have those books, right? If you listen to us, you’ve picked up a copy of these books. They’re floating around there they are. The editors are convinced that the West needs to recapture and re emphasize, re emphasize and bring to bear upon its present problems, the wisdom that lies in the works of its greatest thinkers and in the discussion that they have carried on. Right there is the root of the failures of this essay to bring to bear upon its present problems. He says a little further, we are concerned as anybody else at the headlong plunge into the abyss that Western civilization seems to be taking. And at the end of the paragraph, we want the voices of the great conversation to be heard again, because we think they may help us to learn to live better. Now. In other words, you should read these books because they’ll improve your life. Or they’ll improve your political climate, or they’ll make your nation better. And that’s not why I read them. I think that is confusing a side effects for the main effect. The main reason you read them is because this is the divine work that Aristotle talks about. In the nick Nicomachean Ethics. This is what humans are supposed to do. We’re supposed to think you do it because it’s a good activity. Even if it had no great effect in the world, you should do it.

Scott Hambrick 21:00
I agree with that. Hutchins doesn’t he doesn’t he’s doing this for another purpose. entirely different. He has a different metaphysical judgment of the books. Like he thinks they’re different than you. And I think they are.

Karl Schudt 21:18
Yeah. Well, the thing is, I can’t predict what you’re going to be like, after you read these things. I can’t predict the way that your personal politics will drift. He thinks he can. Yeah, he thinks it’s gonna make you better. It’s gonna make you more like Robert Hutchins. And it will lead to a better world.

Scott Hambrick 21:45
This is the crux of my whole problem with this essay. And maybe actually the great books movement. I think that they need to be read for the reasons that you described. Because there’s something divine and special about them, and they are edifying to the individual. There’s something divine and special about you. Yes. And you to Carl, you too, man. Well,

Karl Schudt 22:08
I wasn’t my you wasn’t specific to you. It was a general one.

Scott Hambrick 22:14
That kind of hurts.

Karl Schudt 22:15
I mean, you’re part of the set of the things that have a divine nature, but it wasn’t just

Scott Hambrick 22:19
using your set theory doesn’t make me feel better. I thought you’re loving on me. I’d say charity, you’re part of the set of the things that I think are special. It’s not very nice. Now, so so so if Hutchins says if hedge fund believes that there are solutions to our problems within these books, how would we know what those solutions were? And how are they presented? And then how do we know that they’re true? Now, if you go look at the great books of the Western world, you’ll see that there is Adam Smith and Marx in there, there was Aristotle in their art is Hume of those two pairs I mentioned. They both can’t be right. Well, how does Hutchins think that we’re going to read Smith, and then we’re going to read Marx, and then we’re going to know the truth about how to deal with economic problems? Because those those two guys are mostly opposed to each other. I think he’s basically he Galeon. I think that he thinks that you read this one and you read that one, and then there’s a synthesis that comes from it, and then you then you heal the world.

Karl Schudt 23:37
Mm hmm. I don’t think the books take you necessarily in the direction he thinks they do. Alcibiades hung out with Socrates. Did his liberal education lead him to be a mid century progressive, like Hutchins would like? Right.

Scott Hambrick 23:54
You know, that’s so interesting. Alexander the Great studied

Karl Schudt 23:57
with Aristotle. So they don’t necessarily lead where you think they lead.

Scott Hambrick 24:01
Hutchins is pre Greatest Generation. He’s an older man than the quote unquote, greatest generation. I don’t know what his birth date was, but he was far past draft age and world war two would be my guess. And he led many, many, many, many people through the great books, even though so many of those encyclopedias pretend he was born 1899 Even though so many of those Encyclopedia Britannica sets went unread. He between activities at the basic program with universe Chicago and the people that did actually read those. He saw a lot of people transformed by reading the books in more than when you and I have seen and we’ve seen a lot of them transformed by these books. If he was in fact seeing a liberal progressive mid century person that he thought is being created by those books. It’s way more social than as a result of the books because that is not what we’re seeing coming Out of these books right now.

Karl Schudt 25:02
Huh? Yeah,

Scott Hambrick 25:04
that is not what we’re seeing.

Karl Schudt 25:08
Right? You might think on thinkable things after you read them, they’re dangerous. That’s another reason to read them. They’re dangerous. They’re not necessarily going to make you a tame animal. No. They’ll open up vistas of thought that you currently can’t think you know what I mean by that. So that like, I can’t think very well about colors. I can see him. But I have no idea what the difference between seafoam and green is. I do know that actual seafoam isn’t anything like the color seafoam? I’ve heard that there are these colors? I can’t distinguish them. I can’t think intelligently about them. I can’t talk about them. There’s a reason for that. Because there’s nothing intelligent to say about color.

Scott Hambrick 25:57
Code. Yeah.

Karl Schudt 26:00
So let’s say if I could read a book that that led me, I’m trying to make a bad analogy here, I guess. But if I could read a book that explained to me that the variations of color in a way that I could see it more easily and distinguish the 43 kinds of pink? Well, then I could do things with color that I can’t do now. So there are things you cannot think there are things that Hutchins can’t think in this book he, he presumes the goodness of democracy. That’s an unquestioned premise for him. Yep. What you read these books, and you might question his premise.

Scott Hambrick 26:36
Page two, book, one, Aristotle’s Politics. He pauses the natural life. You know, and I’m thinking did did Hutchins read that?

Karl Schudt 26:49
Did he take it seriously enough?

Scott Hambrick 26:50
He clearly didn’t. Yeah, maybe we should flesh this position out here a little more. Yep. He says that these books are not offered in an antiquarian spirit. He’s not a museum. Keeper. He’s not a he’s not an archivist. He thinks that these have relevance today, right now. TLDR. You get to the end of the you get to the end of this essay, which is about this. Here on my PDF is 28 pages. He talks about the dangers of nuclear war, nuclear and atomic warfare. And he essentially calls for a one world government. And he believes that that government should be some sort of a representative government and that the citizens of this government can save the world from atomic and nuclear warfare. If they all had a proper liberal arts education, and had read these books. Am I blowing him out of proportion here? Am I saying Am I putting words in his mouth, Carl?

Karl Schudt 27:57
No, no, that was my reading as well. And okay, so the One World Government stuff? Yeah, you could get that from this set of books.

Scott Hambrick 28:07
Yeah, sure. You could, yeah. Plato tells us,

Karl Schudt 28:11
you could get something else. Right, the idea that reading them and talking about them with a group of intelligent people is going to lead you to where he goes. And make one world government easy and possible. I don’t think so. You still ought to read the books. But I wondered how much of this essay I mean, there’s some I have a bunch of outline stuff that’s worth giving to the listener, but let’s do it, where he says some good and useful things. But I wondered about this essays. Is this in earnest, or is it salesmanship?

Scott Hambrick 28:43
I think it’s in earnest Carl. I think he’s a true believer.

Karl Schudt 28:48
Page X III, we believe that the reduction of the citizen to an object of propaganda private and public is one of the greatest dangers to democracy. A prevalent notion is that the great mass of the people cannot understand and cannot form an independent judgment on any matter. They cannot be educated in the sense of developing their individual powers. But they can be bamboozled. Alright, so. Okay, I think he’s right. In the first part, the reduction of a citizen to an object of democracy is a great danger. It doesn’t matter if it’s a democracy or not. Right? If I live in a republic, or a monarchy, or whatever, I still want you to read these books.

Scott Hambrick 29:26
Yeah, I’m gonna read that next sentence here. The reiteration of slogans the distortion of the news, the great storm of propaganda that beats upon the citizen 24 hours a day, all his lifelong mean either that democracy must fall prey to the loudest and most persistent propagandists, or that the people must save themselves by strengthening their mind so that they can appraise the issues for themselves. Great Books alone will not do the trick for the people must have the information on which to base a judgement as well as the ability to make one in order to understand inflation. For example, it has Intelligent opinion as to what can be done about it. The economic facts that a given country at a given time have to be available in this interesting. I mean, like when did when did you write this?

Karl Schudt 30:10
When in the 50s? Was there inflationary policy?

Scott Hambrick 30:14
I don’t know. It was published in 52. So maybe wrote it 5051? I don’t know. I think that the one lesson of the great books that almost every single person I have ever spoken to who’s read them in earnest says that they got from them is that things have not changed. You know, we’ve helped hundreds and hundreds or maybe 1000s of people work through the classical period at this point, almost to a person they say that the main lesson is, boy, things haven’t changed. How can Hutchins think that the that it’s going to change? I don’t understand what he read. What is he doing?

Karl Schudt 30:56
He’s a college administrator. He doesn’t read.

Scott Hambrick 31:00
Adler do. Adler lived a long time. And almost 100 years. Yeah. And so there’s, there’s early middle late and really, really late Adler. And I think by the end, late, Adler was probably more more like me or me more like Him than Hutchins here. So Hutchins, also, gosh, he thinks for you to be a proper citizen in a democracy, you need to have this education that only these books can get you. He doesn’t have anything to say about well, if they don’t read them, do we let them vote? I mean, that’s the corollary, right? Like if you need to be a good citizen, you need to read these books. Well, if somebody can’t pass, you know, give a book report on and they don’t get to vote then. Right, Robert? He reminds

Karl Schudt 31:54
me of Protagoras. Okay, so Protagoras has this argument with Socrates, young Socrates, about virtue, and whether there are teachers of virtue and Protagoras claims that there are teachers of virtue all around you that that the gods have So input, have so put into humans a sense of justice, that we are capable of deliberating about these issues. Socrates, there are teachers of virtue all around you, and you’re too delicate to see them. Okay, so Protagoras, if he was talking in Athenian democracy, in the salons of Athenian democracy, there’s this great image that Plato has where he’s walking through the crowd, He’s the great man, he’s like a ship going through the waves and the waves closing behind him, and it’s hilarious. But what do you have to say to people who have chosen democracy, you have to say that everyone has the capacity to vote in the assembly? In other words, they have to understand justice, right? If democracy is going to be workable, the people must be able to be educated in matters of justice. Well, if they’re not able to be educated in matters of justice, then democracy is not workable. if p then q, if not Q then not p. So, Hutchins is out on a limb here, and he actually says it somewhere in here I quoted in our slack. He says pretty clearly what I say if we can’t do this, then democracy is doomed.

Scott Hambrick 33:29
Yes. So as a guy who runs a great books program, me and Hutchins, you know, we got some something in common when he was doing that. We have to go on our podcast and write our essays and say that everybody can do this and that they should. But not everybody can do this. The can’t, you know, Aristotle talks about people have these different proclivities, some people do not have the gifts. And those gifts might include intellect in the or those gifts might have the skills to just do it, you know, to sit down and have the discipline to actually do it. Some people don’t want to do it, some people don’t care. Some people are too sick to do it. You know, not everybody can do it. Darn it. So if it’s, and I think they I think everyone should try. I also think that most of these books, The Iliad, for example, the Odyssey has something for everyone. You can go as deep as you want on the Iliad, and you can go as deep as you want on Aristotle, but you can’t go as shallow as you want. Yeah, there are some of these books that are that are just not accessible to some people. If you’re not willing to really do the thing to spend the time with Aristotle. The book remains closed. You know, he has nothing to say about that. Maybe he can maybe it is some salesmanship, you know, but maybe can’t say it. I’ll say it. Yeah, we’re not selling the books. They’re not selling the books. No,

Karl Schudt 35:08
we’re selling memberships.

Scott Hambrick 35:11
Actually, you know what? There aren’t very many people. We’re not a big organization. I mean, I know for a fact that I can put a Facebook ad in front of 3 million people, and nobody will click on it. Nobody wants to even do this. They don’t want to do it. You know, these stupid people on like, Shark Tank, haven’t watched shark tank in forever. But they’re these stupid business people. They’re like, Okay, listen, listen, there’s 7 billion people on the face of the earth. And if we can just get 1/10 of 1%, there isn’t 1/10 of 1% of 7 billion that wants to do this. There’s not. Now there shouldn’t be more. There should be a lot

Karl Schudt 35:52
more young men out there up, you’re probably not listening to me right now anyway, but who are hard devoting hours and hours in maxing out? I don’t even know what the current games are Skyrim or two years ago, whatever the current immersive games are, that you are, you know, sometimes, Scott? In the past, I would go on the online servers to play some of these games and immediately get smoked. Oh, of course. Because some kid out there has maxed out the armor and the weapons and figured everything out about this game to destroy me in half a second and then laugh at me for being a noob. Yeah. My youngest boy can do that. We sometimes we do Halo deathmatch. Yeah. And he’s a killer.

Scott Hambrick 36:41
Aristotle will do that to you, too. Like noob. teabags, you,

Karl Schudt 36:47
you people out there that are spending so much intellectual effort on that sort of thing. You could read these books. You could, right now, you probably don’t want to, but you could. And I think it’d be a better use of your time. The literature stuff, I think, the plays and the Iliad, I think a whole bunch of people could get a lot out of OSHA. Aristotle is going to be hard for a bunch.

Scott Hambrick 37:13
Yeah. Much of Plato is accessible to everyone. So before I get back here to page 15x V. How many people do you think can read these in earnest and do well with them? Curl a percentage? puts you on the spot here? You know, I can Yeah, I said 1/10 of 1% won’t even do it. But I think that I think that 70 or 80% of people would benefit greatly from a sort of attempt of it. Of these books. Maybe more maybe 90%. If it’s

Karl Schudt 37:55
done at the right time so and Hutchins does say something, he says something useful. I’m conceding that to him. I forget where it is on the way that we do these books when I was in high school. And I was a nerd. So I was much more likely to get stuff out of the books in high school than most people, I think. But you know, you’re made to read A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens, which Dickens is very great, but for a 15 year old, to be slogging through 800 pages of Dickens is real hard. It’s not he doesn’t care. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, who cares? Right? You know? You read that when you’re 30 or 40. Then you have big life decisions. Maybe this thing hits you between the eyes.

Scott Hambrick 38:48
Yeah. what Aristotle says what you don’t teach philosophy till what? 28?

Karl Schudt 38:53
I think Plato says somewhere, you finally get to study philosophy when you eat 50. Yeah. That maybe Thomas Aquinas died at 49?

Scott Hambrick 39:01
What didn’t say teach it? He just said,

Karl Schudt 39:04
yeah. So we ruined a lot of these books by I mean, they gotta read something. We ruin them by forcing them on people when they’re too young. And then and then. And Hutchins makes this point, too, we make. And I think he’s right. He says that we presume that no education happens after you get out of high school or college. So you got to jam it all in. Because we presume that nobody’s going to crack a book after they’re 22 years old. That’s pretty good presumption. And so if you have a culture of reading or have a culture of culture, there are good things out there that you should look at. Well, you don’t you’re not so worried that the kid hasn’t read Moby Dick. Yeah. He’ll read it when it’s when it’s time and that book is dynamite.

Scott Hambrick 39:46
Oh, it’s killer. It’s one of my favorites Carl you lost me with Dickens. I’m back with a Moby Dick.

Karl Schudt 39:55
Dickens on the short stories is great. I don’t

Scott Hambrick 39:57
have a problem with him, but Moby Dick is the cat’s ass

Karl Schudt 40:01
got paid by the word and he got paid.

Scott Hambrick 40:05
Hutchins says a second element of novelty in the presentation of these books at this time is found in the proposition that democracy requires liberal education for all. We believe this proposition is true. We have concede that it has not been scientifically proved. I think that a lot of this essay, particularly this paragraph, here is a reaction to Dewey, the progressives, the American progressives had had a great influence on education by the late 40s. They were the effects of that influence were being felt heavily. And I think that this is a reaction largely to Dewey and as like. So it might not be the fullness of what, you know, Hutchins thinks about this stuff and more of a reaction to Dewey. You know, he concedes that it hasn’t been scientifically proved, like Dewey thinks that through some scientific methods, and experimentation that we can improve on education of young people. So thinks that education, proper education will change, based on the technology of the day and the social mores and movements of the day. I don’t agree with that. And I don’t think Hutchins does either we believe that there is such a thing as a proper education that exists, you know, for all times.

Karl Schudt 41:29
Yeah. Well, he says, somewhere if there is a human nature, then there’s a human education. You know, there’s a sheep nature, which means therefore, there’s a proper way to raise sheep.

Scott Hambrick 41:44
Carl, we went we went and saw Mr. Craig Judy, this weekend charity and I I heard I saw the band. Mrs. Duty has a pet dog. He’s it’s a he’s supposed to be a guardian sheep Guardian dog. But he’s a pet. He’s useless for guarding. It’s named smokey. Biggest dog I’ve ever seen in my life. Is like a polar bear. The jaw, the dog’s head wouldn’t fit in a five gallon bucket. The biggest dog I’ve ever seen. Unbelievable. Uh huh. Great tyrannize. I guess, giant giant dog super sweet, comes up and leans on me about broke my leg. I tore my ACL I fell over. Huge, huge dog. Oh, my goodness. But that dog has a nature. So if you want to train that dog, oh, by the way, we need to talk about the difference between training and education here. But if you want to train that dog, because you can’t educate a dog and sheep guardianship, but you can train him, there is a way to do that because he has a dog. And if humans are things, then there is a way to train or educate them. Dewey is very interested in training. He’s really not educated, interested in education. He’s more interested in imparting particular skills. And Hutchins wants to figure out how to give someone a general education, something they can synthesize on so that they can know when they see a new situation. They can say to themselves, is this just or not?

Karl Schudt 43:32
Right. And so where the where this breaks down. One of the places with the human is, so I can have you read all the great books, we can study together. Now you have a basis upon which you like a jazz musician, you have a sufficient technical facility with the instrument to be able to play whatever you want. There’s the rub, whatever you want, so you can play nice stuff. I like Chet Baker, he can play crap like Ornette Coleman. Yes, but both of them, you know, have the same sort of training in the music on different instruments. But I could have said Miles Davis later miles don’t bother with later miles. I can’t predict or determine what you’re going to do. I can’t predict what you’re going to value. I remember a book by Vladimir Solovyov as a Russian philosopher can talk about Russians.

Scott Hambrick 44:30
I for one welcome my Russian overlords.

Karl Schudt 44:35
Well, they probably don’t like Solovyov cuz he was a crypto Catholic. Probably was a Catholic at the end. But he wrote it was in response to Aristotle. Aristotle says live a life of moderation and slow viously Why do I care about moderation? If life is finite and limited then he thinks that Aristotle’s approach to ethics doesn’t quite work because you don’t need to be moderate. Just laying out to somebody and he’s he’s right. Solovyov is not a libertine. But he’s making a point that just because you present to me temperance as a virtue, and even if you explain to me how being intemperate leads to destruction, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to choose destruction.

Scott Hambrick 45:24
Well, that’s why you need Thomas to fix that for you. But But yeah, I hear him.

Karl Schudt 45:29
Well, even with Thomas, even with Thomas, you don’t have to choose the good

Scott Hambrick 45:34
No, no, but when you put the beatific vision in there, it changes the math. It changes Aristotle’s

Karl Schudt 45:41
it does change the math, but you can still say no thanks, horse. Okay. And that’s the difference between training and education. Yeah. The dog can’t really choose. It’s either a good dog or for its purpose, or it’s a bad dog for its purpose. It’s not choosing. Yeah, to be bad. dog lovers, I’m sorry, but it’s just not happening. Now, imagine if dogs could choose they there would be a day they would rise up in Revelation.

Scott Hambrick 46:13
Yeah, I don’t want smokey to choose. No. I pulled up in their driveway. And I saw that dog. And I just sat in the truck. I called him I said, there’s this giant dog out here. I’m just gonna stay here till you get here. And he said that’s probably good.

Karl Schudt 46:31
When I was out with, I was out with one of my daughters looking at properties a while back. And we found this place I had this beautiful pasture and nice fencing. It looked good and we’re looking at it and this huge dog just starts galloping up to us. And we didn’t have time to get in the car anything and both a little scared and I think it was a Great Pyrenees but he just came up and he rolled over presented his belly who wouldn’t let us leave would block us from the door escape looked fear some was not fear. So

Scott Hambrick 47:07
God gosh, yeah. This so difficult. Alright, so difficult.

Karl Schudt 47:14
I will pull out good things that he says okay. Interesting things that he says if we ever get out of the the Roman numeral pages X VI, he talks about leisure. He thinks that the mechanization has brought more leisure time, which it did, we confess that we have had principally in mind the deeds, the needs of the adult population who in America at least have as a result of the changes of the last 50 years have the leisure to become educated men and women, they now have the chance to understand themselves to understanding their tradition. Our principal aim and putting these books together was to offer them the means of doing so. Okay, so you have more leisure time. You ought to have Hutchins thanks. A good use of that leisure.

Scott Hambrick 48:01
Yeah, I agree. Well,

Karl Schudt 48:03
why not read these books? I’m not sure that the leisure time is necessarily a good thing. I think it leads us to like, tick tock dances and stuff how much leisure DD it’d be better if they be better if they didn’t have enough leisure? Right? Leisure can be bad for human leisure could be bad for animals. You were telling me before the podcast about putting a bunch of animals in close confinement and they start doing all sorts of weird things.

Scott Hambrick 48:29
Santana, he said, That’s the Calhoun study from the 40s.

Karl Schudt 48:35
Yeah, they don’t have to hunt for their living. They are living their foods provided but they’re in confinement and they start doing crazy stuff. So at leisure, leisure is not an unmitigated good. Now. Leisure is a problem to be solved.

Scott Hambrick 48:54
You know, Star Trek is far superior to Star Wars. I used to be what Star Wars? Yeah, I don’t know. It’s that. I can’t say anything good about it. Star Trek, depicts this this world of the future where everyone’s economic meeting needs needs are met you push a button on in a turkey dinner comes out of the wall and you don’t you know, what do they call that thing? The replicator it’s a 3d printer, right? I mean, when we were trying to get there, and the whole Star Trek world is the idea is that everybody’s needs economic needs are met so they can pursue their interests. So Scotty loves machines and whatever. And he’s the he’s the head of engineering. Spock does his thing bounced as medicine, you know, whatever. Kirk likes Bonin weird alien ladies and seeing new places. So you know, that’s what they do. You know, Marx has had this vision of people you know, working a little bit in the morning and painting in the evening and in the truth of it is that’s not What happens? They eat Cheetos. They’re like Doctor Doctor, why isn’t my genitals orange? You know, they don’t it’s it’s not what happens. So what number one, there’s that people don’t work their leisure like we would have them or like paper would have them to write. And then the thing that irritates me the most about this is that this is sort of the what Brett McKay has talked about this, you know, in the 70s, we had the leisure suit, you know, there was just this idea that people were just going to have to work 2830 hours a week, we’re going to go to a four day work week, we’re going to go to six hour work day, whatever, and that everybody was going to pursue these hobbies. And I don’t know when it happened. But that reversed at some point, probably in the mid 80s, people’s work week started getting longer, their commutes started getting longer and their leisure started disappearing. Think about leisure in terms of just two income households. If one person is at home, you’ve got a washing machine, a microwave oven, a gas cook range, a vacuum cleaner. In a refrigerator, we don’t have to can like that person. Listen, whether you like it or not, and your stupid feminist axe to grind. That’s not a terrible live as opposed to actually going to we’re getting dressed to come you listening to the stupid speech from the HR, the blurb above above. Like there was one person that was hooked up in terms of economic production. Now both people have to be hooked up with economic production, and the VAT floor still has to get vacuumed, the laundry still has to be done. Somebody still has to come up with some food. So it you know, in terms of economic production, it’s at least doubled since 1952. The burden of it has at least doubled since 1952. So, you know, thanks, progressives. we’re progressing towards I don’t know what total work life what what do we forget? What do we want? What are we talking about? Total economic output? Can we monetize my sleep?

Karl Schudt 52:17
If economic output is the measure of the worth of a person, then everybody needs to work all the time.

Scott Hambrick 52:23
We need to monetize my sleep somehow.

Karl Schudt 52:26
Do you make interesting sounds I don’t know. could sell them on the Patreon page.

Scott Hambrick 52:31
That time I spent sleeping, it’s a waste. But anyway, you get the point you know like what what what what are people going to do at their leisure and then the leisure activities are now designed to pack your biochemistry into be addictive.

Karl Schudt 52:52
dopamine receptors. Yeah. I’m just thinking so I, for business reasons, I returned to the Instagram I’m sorry. There is a chute strength account at Instagram. It’s only going to talk about strength training and you know to promote myself as coach where you can find at barbell hyphen logic comm I’m not going to talk about acorns. You know, cuz I think that’s what got me banned acorn harvesting. They don’t want you to know that you can eat acorns.

Scott Hambrick 53:24
They don’t they banned you over it, the craft

Karl Schudt 53:26
company. Or Nestle one of these food conglomerates said, Nope, shut that guy down. But you post something, and I noticed it myself. I’ll post here’s a picture of me taking a deadlift and saying something or deadlifting and saying something interesting about that lifting. Alright, and I posted Well, what do you do? Two minutes later. Has anyone liked it? That little thumbs up whoever at Facebook invented that. Speaking of McKay’s had people on talking about this, it is designed to hack your system. And so you keep checking Well Did anyone that stupid you shouldn’t care? You know, maybe you go back in a day or two and see how it did. But it’s designed to be addictive. You’d definitely be better off reading these books, had a thought on how to make them. Hutchins, I think is this door to door salesmanship was was all right. But the real way to get people to read them would be to forbid them. Hmm.

Scott Hambrick 54:26
I wouldn’t see I was immediately trying to figure out how to get like naked girls in them or something. Banning would be good.

Karl Schudt 54:36
Aristotle could have a centerfold but they don’t want

Scott Hambrick 54:39
you to read the politics. Now.

Karl Schudt 54:43
Don’t get caught reading this book.

Scott Hambrick 54:47
52 books they don’t want you to read.

Karl Schudt 54:49
So there’s I want to go to page X V i will we get out of the introduction. That’s where I am in in two hours. I think this line here I don’t know if I had read this essay at the time. I probably did. And I think it got me in trouble. So I was an adjunct for a long time at a university out here. And there had been promises and soft promises of a full time position. You get a humanities PhD. Your academic career these days is likely you’re going to be stuck as an adjunct. Yeah. Because they don’t need to hire you that because you stupid fool will go teach their classes without tenure. Then there’s more of you than there is demand for you. So if you don’t want to do it, somebody else will. Alright, well, anyway, so they would promise things like, yeah, car will. There’ll be a position opening up. I remember I went to a faculty meeting and we were talking about curriculum issues. And I made the point that, you know, they wanted, they wanted to internationalize the curriculum. There was a core curriculum and they wanted to internationalize it and, you know, read books of the east and this sort of thing. And I’m sitting in that meeting, and they’re all proposing their books that they want, that they think are important. And they’re proposing modern books. And I said, kind of quoted Hutchins here. He says, The reason for the admission of authors and works after 1900 is simply that the editors did not feel that they or anyone else could accurately judge the merits of contemporary writings. And I don’t think it might have been Handmaid’s Tale, handmaidens tale. You can’t know if that looks any good.

Scott Hambrick 56:24
Yeah, I can know if it’s bad. I might not know you’re too close to it.

Karl Schudt 56:27
Well, I was being diplomatic. Just saying maybe it’s good, but we don’t know. It’s too close. You know, I like Camus. I’m not sure it’s a great book. I like the plague. I think it’s a pretty good book. I don’t know that it’s great. Asked me 100 years. I mean, who I don’t know who reads it anymore. But which is part of the reason for our Code of Conduct at ogv, where we try not to bring up contemporary issues. Because the thing that you think is so important, might not be no

Scott Hambrick 57:01
simple thing. Hmm, yeah, this is we’re in the section here, where he’s gonna, where he’s trying to defend their selections of the actual volumes of the great books of the Western world set all of the the nitpicking about what should be on the list. I find it pretty tiresome, you know, nobody reads it, much of it anyway. You know, there’s a there’s a chunk that almost nobody would debate about, you know, Plato and Aristotle need to be on the list. The Iliad needs to be on the homers, right? Just go read those, like nobody reads the 54 volumes, but me. So just just go get those like, that’s, that’s six, seven years worth of work if you care, you know, get those Yeah. And then you’ll see some other things as a result of reading the hose and you know, you’re you’ll end up with the Infinity stack anyway, all that all the hairsplitting about what needs to be on the list and whatever is moot to me. Just nobody reads him anyway.

Karl Schudt 58:01
Yeah, but you can leave off the new stuff for sure.

Scott Hambrick 58:04
Like past Dante.

Karl Schudt 58:10
I was thinking past past Heidegger, but okay. We have different tastes dear listeners, Scott and I have different tastes especially in I kind of like continental philosophy. I like the existentialist. And every time I propose one, he’ll do it. And then he’s like, through the whole podcast, I can just see the look on his face is like he’s got a Sour Lemon, and then, and he’ll say, he’ll try to engage it. Like, isn’t this Kierkegaard great? It’s not a thing.

Scott Hambrick 58:45
No, it is not.

Karl Schudt 58:48
Not his thing. He is a thomist. Through

Scott Hambrick 58:51
and Through crypto Catholic.

Karl Schudt 58:55
way, it’s not a bad thing to be, was probably a better thing to be probably I am. I am enamored with this, because I’m more degenerate than you that I am enamored with a more degenerate philosopher.

Scott Hambrick 59:05
Yeah, he’s got pages and pages here about why they didn’t pick this one, or that one or more writers from you know, this epic, or that epoch, whatever. All this all that stuff. So boring.

Karl Schudt 59:18
Yeah. I like what he says about and we’ve adopted it. OGP, you know, read the book, don’t read the critical apparatus, the dissections by the nerd scholar. So that’s no good that they’re getting in the way of you in the book. You can go read Dante, it’s okay. You won’t know who the names are. But you can read it and then you can look them up later. But let the poetry hit you. Just go read it.

Scott Hambrick 59:39
Point, the great books of the Western world set. By the way he mentioned Dante, I think I read I’ve read a couple of translations, and I think it was at Lombardo is the most recent one I read. I think that’s the one that Hackett sells, and men just glorious footnotes, you know, so when they’ve got all those names in there, they’re like, Well, this was the mayor of this city, state or whatever. Ever and you know, tells you who those people were. But the great books of the Western world, almost no footnotes, there are some very few footnotes. The margins are way too small. The print is too small. It’s printed in two columns per page. I love them. Like I said, I’ve got three sets, they’re fucking terrible. They’re terrible. It’s almost as bad as it could possibly be.

Karl Schudt 1:00:27
Well, you know, if you join us, we send you books. And they’re not the great books of the Western world set.

Scott Hambrick 1:00:35
You can do better, although a lot of the books that we use are the same translations, but they’re printed bounce differently. Like we use the Latimore Yeah, and stuff, whatever. But man, they’re, they’re just poorly done. The aesthetic

Karl Schudt 1:00:49
is important. Books need to look good. And I have definite ideas on how they should look, they need

Scott Hambrick 1:00:57
to have more margin on the page than print.

Karl Schudt 1:01:01
Yep. And you don’t want to have any space between the lines. And there’s an optimal width which is probably three and a half inches. That your eye can easily scan over the one line and back to the next without having to go all the way across the page. So the way you could figure this out, so go get yourself a book published say in 1907. Just you know, Harriet Beecher store so I don’t know just some book because grab it. You don’t have to read it. Isn’t have to grab it. Okay, and open it up and look at how beautiful the typesetting is. When a craftsmen who could read backwards right? Set those letters as an artist to make a beautiful book. That’s what books ought to look like.


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