The Online Great Books Blog
Here at Online Great Books, we read books that are, well, great. The books have stood the test of time, are hefty enough to bear repeated readings, and make some contribution to the ongoing conversation that we humans have been having with ourselves ever since we learned how to commit our thoughts to the physical world in writing. But does all of our reading have to be weighty? Is there room for lightweight reading, for books that aren’t great, for books that aren’t important? Maybe even for books that are bad?
In our open discussion forum in Slack, OGB member Tim Suddarth had a great question. So great, we thought it needed to be fleshed out for the purpose of this blog post.
In The Republic, the greatest bit of political thought ever written, Plato asks us all, “What is Justice?”
In The Republic, we read that justice could be giving people what is theirs, the rule of the many, that which the strongest demand, and more. People have wrestled with this text and the problems it presents for thousands of years. We still don’t REALLY know how one “does justice.” I think we do know that justice comes into play in every single human interaction.
Here at Online Great Books, we have a problem. Sometimes, people do not attend their seminar. They keep paying and they keep receiving their books, but they don’t show up for the weekly seminar. This is problematic. Not only because they aren’t getting full value for their membership, but because the other members of their seminar are not getting full value.
I fell asleep reading Herodotus last week. I awoke in his study in Halicarnassus. He’s wide-eyed, insistent, takes me by the hand, and leads me into his study. Once there, he gets me a cup of tea. I’m more of a coffee guy, but it’s good tea. Herodotus shows me to a seat in between two precarious piles of scrolls.
Books as Friends?
There’s a definite logic to the old saying that we can be measured by the company we keep. One thing that makes us feel good and even a little proud about reading Great Books is that we are keeping great company. Of course, there’s a downside of the maxim: when we compare ourselves to the Great Thinkers, they can make us feel like zhlubs. Still, we enjoy “standing on the shoulders of giants”.”