08 Mar Syntopical Thinking: Great Conversations Centering around Great Ideas in Great Works
Syntopical thinking, also known as synthesis, is the touchstone of a liberal arts education and syntopical reading is the most important type of reading in the Humanities so that we may form the most informed evaluative positions about the works that we explore.
In fact, according to Bloom’s taxonomy, synthesis, evaluation and creation are usually considered among the highest level critical thinking skills that we aspire to in education.
For more information please visit Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Levels.
A great tool to assure a syntopical approach in this class is Mortimer Adler’s work The Great Ideas, and his collection of essays which divide Humanities education into the pursuit of understanding 102 Great Ideas.
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In his academic career, Mortimer Adler insisted that as humanists we must engage in great conversations about great ideas expressed in great works, and he defined the “great conversation” as a “discussion of the great ideas during the last twenty-five centuries.”
Confluence Courseware is oriented by this principle that the best liberal arts education is one that has “great conversations” about “great ideas” expressed in great works.
Therefore, at lease a cursory understanding of the notion of syntopical reading, organized around the delineation of “great ideas,” is helpful as we begin to consider the Syntopical Course Guides from Confluence Courseware. Obviously, the task of syntopical, great books learning is a life-long project, but this courseware allows for the training of life-long habits so that the student can continue his or her liberal arts education long after formal schooling.
“Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.”