Why Study Great Texts?

To know yourself. A great text is a mirror. In it you will see new sides of yourself, sides you didn't know were there. "Know yourself," the Delphic oracle says. Reading great texts will help you advance in the project of self-understanding.

To know others. To gain understanding and empathy for other people and their perspectives. Like a good film, a great text brings you closer to the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of others. It makes your world (as well as your mind) larger.

To think more deeply about things of intrinsic interest. Love, desire, friendship. The pains and pleasures of being human. The use and abuse of power. The difference between genuine and counterfeit happiness. Notions of good and evil. The power and limits of human reason. The existence and nature of God. The possibility of divine revelation. Great texts address these things, clearly and directly.

To gain insight into the assumptions of our time. "Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books" (C.S. Lewis, Introduction to St. Athanasius's On the Incarnation).

To develop better habits of mind. "Learning to see--habituating the eye to repose, to patience, to letting things come to it; learning to defer judgment, to investigate and comprehend the individual case in all its aspects. This is the first preliminary schooling in spirituality: not to react immediately to a stimulus, but to have the restraining, stock-taking instincts in one’s control" (Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols).