Great Books and Big Lies (“Theirs” and “Ours”)
How can the the great books spur independent, critical thinking? Instructor Adam Rose discusses liberal education in ideal democracies.
About the Event
Presented by Basic Program instructors and open to all, these lectures also complement the texts and ideas from our curriculum and always include a Q&A session.
In contrast to Plato’s ideal polity ruled by a “philosopher-king”, an ideal democracy must be ruled by “philosopher-citizens”, each of whom pursues wisdom through independent, critical thinking. One of the central ongoing tasks of such free thinking is the recognition, analysis, and rebuttal of the assorted “big lies” (i.e., propaganda) perpetually perpetrated by foe and friend alike. Lifelong liberal education grounded in the great books can help us do this. As the preface to an old University of Chicago reader once put it: “If citizens are to be free, they must be their own judges. If they are to judge well, they must be wise. Citizens may be born free; they are not born wise. Therefore, the business of liberal education in a democracy is to make free men wise.”
Basic Program Instructor
Adam Rose did his graduate work with the Committee on General Studies in the Humanities and the Committee on Human Development at the University of Chicago. He is primarily interested in exploring the ways in which the production and reception of texts of all types affect human life, especially the ways in which texts shape people’s views about themselves and the world they live in. Although this often means working with “scriptures” (such as the Hebrew Bible, New Testament and the Koran), this interest has also led him to apply the same approach to great works of literature (such as Homer’s Odyssey, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter). Adam has taught in the Basic Program since 1993 and is a former Staff Chair and recipient of the 2007 Graham School Excellence in Teaching Award.