Conversations with Marsha: Scott Hambrick of Online Great Books

Scott Hambrick is the Founder & Reader-in-Chief of Online Great Books (OGB). He and Charity, his wife of 20 years, home school their two daughters. After getting some serious skin in the educational game, Scott became more rigorous about his own continuing education. This interest lead to the creation of OGB. Scott hopes to introduce tens of thousands of people to the great books of the western world through this new platform.

In this conversation, Marsha and Scott cover the roll of the great books in a holistic liberal arts education, and how the great classic literature prepares young people for a successful future.

References in the discussion:

Mortimer AdlerHow To Read A Book
AristotlePrior Analytics,
Aristotle, Posterior Analytics
Homer, The Illiad
Herodotus, Histories
Online Great Books

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  • That was a fun session, exploring the ideas in Scott’s repertoire enriched by classic insights and prejudices. It’s amazing to learn for how long great minds have grappled with knowledge and the search for ever deeper truths. As for “Great Books”, who judges what is great? Whose mental filter passes some memes into immortality and others into the trash bin? Consider the sheer volume of mental inventory, when 2,500 years ago a handful of Greeks pondered all there was to know, and today the volume of things to know exceeds the holding capacity of our largest computers, greater than the number of grains of sand on the entire planet. How can we find the time to generate our own new and unique ideas if we are occupied with having to read and digest and absorb the meme stream coming at us through all those other filters? Whose vision or opinion is closest to this strange concept of “truth”? Thank you, Marsha, for being ever the catalyst for enriching others’ thinking.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments Kate. Of course, there’s no exact answer to your question about who decides what’s a great book. The various, contested lists are a result of the “conversation” between very influential thinkers. These tend to be thinkers/writers that people find valuable, insightful, stimulating, challenging to read over long periods of time.

      Who knows what our list would be like if we had the other 95% of the books from the ancient world? Maybe some of Aristotle’s dialogues, which Cicero praised as “golden.” Fanatical Christians destroyed many, many volumes and much was lost to time itself. What we have left must have been considered so remarkable that people risked the wrath of the fundamentalists to save them, and/or there were so many copies of some.

      Two fascinating books on this topic: The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt and The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey.


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