The Great Books Seminar is a program offered by Universitas Foundation to people who wish to widen their knowledge and deepen their understanding of the ideas that were significantly influential in the history of Western Civilization. It adopts the canon developed in the 1950s by Mortimer Adler and Robert Maynard Hutchins known as the Great Books of the Western World.
Universitas looks to the Great Books canon for guideposts of an intellectual tradition that continues to grapple with the fundamental questions men have asked from time immemorial. In keeping with its mission to form principled leaders, Universitas sees the Great Books as a great intellectual mine from which those who wish to lead society should learn from so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past and bring out the best ideas and practices applicable to the contemporary world.
In continuous dialogue with their predecessors, the authors of the Great Books tradition have all contributed to the attempt to give an account of existence, the world, society, and human experience in all its breadth and depth. Their ideas belong to the canon not necessarily because they all spoke the complete truth, but because in varying degrees they have changed the way people viewed the world and the way they have behaved towards it. In all of human history, the best advances and the worst outcomes were driven, not simply by the pursuit of wealth or power, but by ideas, by the novelty, sophistication, and force of their claims on reality.
Jose Maria A. Mariano, PhD
Jojo is an Associate Professor of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), and Research Fellow of the UA&P Center for Research and Communication. He completed a BS degree in Mathematics at the Ateneo de Manila, MA Mathematics at King’s College, University of London, and PhD in Philosophy at the University of Navarra, Spain. He served as UA&P College Dean from 1993 to 1999, and as University President from 2000 to 2015. He teaches logic and philosophy of law at UA&P’s School of Law and Governance. For his volunteer work in Universitas, he serves as Director of Law, Governance and Society Research Group.
As the name suggests, each session takes the seminar format. Participants are assigned a set of readings they are expected to read in preparation for each session. The session itself is a discussion of the key ideas in the assigned texts, led by a professor who is there not to lecture but to give direction and structure to the discussion. The aim is for each participant to contribute to the discussion and, in the effort to understand and engage the great authors, as well as one another, take part in the “great conversation”.
Aims of the great books Seminar
Central to the aims of the program is helping participants develop articulation—in language, in thought, and in a tradition. To be articulate in a language pertains to the ability to express ideas clearly and to receive communication about them effectively. To be articulate in thought pertains to the ability to think critically, as a means for developing sound judgment. And to be articulate in a tradition pertains to the ability to navigate the images, narratives, and analogies that language inevitably resorts to as it struggles to express deep insights about the human experience.
Universitas seeks to expose the participants to the Great Books tradition not merely to be adept in deciphering other people’s truth claims. In the three-fold articulation, the tradition itself offers the skills for possessing the truth genuinely, in itself, and well as a correction of diverse errors, without fear of being first perplexed by the problems or puzzles that the truth eventually resolves. Consistent with its commitment to universal values, Universitas aims that the participants discover in the tradition of the Great Books of the Western World, an irrepresible hope in, and a commitment to, the truth.
Universitas deems this commitment and the requisite intellectual skills necessary for a leader in today’s Age of Information. The ability to communicate and receive communication well is indispensable before the overwhelming amount of information that confront us every day, not just in the social and mass media, but also in the fast-paced world of science. The ability to think clearly, critically, and relevantly allows us to sift through the waves of data and distinguish information from dis-information, the essential from the peripheral, and the kernel of truth from the surrounding mass of opinion. And a firm foundation in the Great Books tradition, in the achievements—and blunders—of the great thinkers of its history, can make a difference for balance and focus towards the right direction in the midst of a fast-changing environment.