The Essential Value of a Classic Education
Lecture by Jeffrey Brenzel, Philosopher, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale University
Created by The Floating University, 2011
Some people regard the classics as mere historical artifacts or fodder for cocktail party conversation. To succeed in today’s world, the thinking goes, it’s not necessary to closely read Plato’s Republic or Dante’s Inferno when one can easily find a summary in Cliff Notes or on Wikipedia. Professor Brenzel argues that not only can reading the great classics enrich your education, it can actually make your life better. Pointing out that we can’t possibly read all of the books in the world, Brenzel makes a case for reading the right books the right way in order to get the most intellectual bang for your reading buck. Which books qualify in the canon of the “right” books is one of the most controversial subjects in academia, and Brenzel outlines his take on the five key characteristics that every great book must fulfill in order to make that coveted list.
From “What’s the best kind of life for a human?” to “How should governments be arranged?”, the great classics tackle some of the most enduring questions that have resisted the attempts of science and the ages to solve. Brenzel will try to convince you that having intimate conversations with these great works will not only build your intellectual muscle but will also help you to grapple with the big questions in your own life and improve your judgment.
Introduction: What is the best sort of life for a human being? Socrates claimed in 400BC that a man lives a happier life if he