That is the title
of Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins’ introductory book in their 54-volume
The Great Books of the Western World, whose volumes range across
some 2300 years of Western civilization, beginning with the ancient
The Great Conversation is the conversation about the fundamental ideas
that have shaped the history of the Western world, about the core philosophical,
scientific, and artistic values that rational individuals ought to cherish.
In Ayn Rand’s interpretation, the Great Conversation is a historical
dialogue played out over the centuries between followers of the two
giants of Greek thought: Plato and Aristotle.
It is this conversation which is depicted in Raphael’s renaissance rendering
of The School of Athens, which we have adopted as the logo for
Full Context, replacing another renaissance icon (of sorts),
Detroit’s Renaissance Center. The new banner was designed by editor
and professional illustrator Karen Minto (formerly Karen Reedstrom).
Seen from a historical standpoint, Objectivism is an appeal to revisit
the Enlightenment claims made for the efficacy of reason in all areas
of life--in morality, in spirituality, in science, in art--but to reargue
the case for reason within the framework of the Objectivist metaphysics
and epistemology. We are all hopeful that it can spearhead the rebirth
of reason in the next century, so keeping the allusion to the Renaissance
in the banner seemed right.
Philosophy is not a war. It is a conversation. Many Objectivist activists
think of themselves as soldiers, fighting against a hostile intellectual
or cultural adversary. They use war imagery to express the gravity of
the situation, the impossibility of reasoning with the enemy. But these
are just metaphors. Intellectual activism on behalf of the advancement
of Objectivism is a discipline of reason and persuasion, not force.
To remind us that philosophy is a conversation, we’ve chosen the greatest
conversation of all to be represented on our banner. Full Context’s
editorial mission is to foster good conversation among people
interested in Objectivism. From our regular feature interviews to the
letters section, dialogue is what we are about. To grasp the "full
context" relevant to the validation of an idea, we need to exchange
thoughts with people of differing levels of sophistication and from
a variety of backgrounds.
The imagery of a philosophical conversation in our banner reflects just
what we are trying to do.