Great Hearts believes a) that there is such a thing as a coherent, historically real tradition of thought, science, art, government, and social life that is particular to the West through time and space, from the ancient Mediterranean and near-Eastern world to the Aleutian islands of the 21st century, b) that there is a special genius and wisdom that are essentially unique to the Western tradition (and not merely arbitrarily said to be unique), and c) that contemporary citizens of the West need to be consciously aware of this tradition in order to flourish in it.

The three ancient cities of Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome stand for the sources of the Western tradition: Athens for Greek conceptions of philosophy, science, and democracy; Jerusalem for the uniquely Western heritage of monotheism and faith in a personal God; Rome for ideas about law and statesmanship. If we were to add three more medieval and modern cities to our list of symbolic sources, we might speak also of London, standing for the tradition of parliamentary government and common law; Paris, standing for the university, as well as for the radical, Jacobin revolutionary tradition in modern Western politics; and Washington, the source of modern democratic politics, industry, and technology.

The West has been called by some the “civilization of the book,” and when we say we love the Western tradition, we are also expressing a preference for the Great Books of literature, science, mathematics, philosophy, theology, and history that have been written in and about this tradition.

Adapted from “Great Hearts: The Six Loves” by Andrew Ellison, Executive Director of San Antonio Academies for Great Hearts Texas.

The Six Loves