Great Books of the Western World - Volume 02 The great ideas I

Author : Great Books of the Western World - Hutchins Robert Maynard
Title : Volume 02 The great ideas I A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Westren World
Year : 1952

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By calling this work "a Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World," the editors hope to characterize its nature, to indicate the function it performs in relation to the set as a whole, and to assert its originality as an intellectual instrument. The relation of these two volumes of The Great Ideas to the rest of the set is the key to the nature of the Syntopicon and its originality as an instrument. Apart from this relation, The Great Ideas, though to some extent readable in itself, does not perform the function for which it was created-to show that the 443 works which comprise Volumes 4 to 54 can be seen and used as something more than a collection of books. The great books are pre-eminently those which have given the western tradition its life and light. The unity of this set of books does not consist merely in the fact that each member of it is a great book worth reading. A deeper unity exists in the relation of all the books to one tradition, a unity shown by the continuity of the discussion of common themes and problems. It is claimed for this set of great books that all the works in it are significantly related to one another and that, taken together, they adequately present the ideas and issues, the terms and topics, that have made the western tradition what it is. More than a collection of books, then, this set is a certain kind of whole that can and should be read as such. The Great Ideas results froni and records such a reading of the great books. The aim of this "syntopical reading" was to discover the unity and continuity of western thought in the discussion of common themes and problems from one end of the tradition to the other. The Syntopicon does not reproduce or present the results of this reading in a digest to save others the trouble of reading the great books for themselves. On the contrary, it only lays down the lines along which a syntopical reading of the great books can be done, and shows why and how it should be done. ...

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