Great Books And The Eastern World: Why is there no requisite canon?

I am a huge fan of the Western Canon. It’s a list of great books, authors, concepts and other important and classic ideas that have lasted throughout the century in the Western World. The Western World is usually considered places descended from Europe and the places Europe colonized. Plato, Socrates, Aristotle? Check. Voltaire, Bentham, Burke? Of course. There’s plenty of other classics out of the Western World too.

One of the things I appreciate the most about the concept of the Western Canon or the Great Books idea is that it’s possible to distill ideas and reading into essential lists. There are millions of books out there covering endless topics, so it is easy to get lost along the way. With the Western Canon though, people can easily look up a philosophical idea, or a literary trope and spend years researching and reading about that idea. It’s a neat (and effective) way to do casual research and to expose yourself to new ideas.

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Reading seems to be one of the few things I could count on as a constant in my life, thankfully.

But there is no equivalent outside of the Western Canon. Plenty of critics say that the Great Books of The Western World is only focused on “Dead White European Men” and that it is too geographically focused on Europe. While that is a valid criticism, I think it would be more effective to look outside of Europe and the Western Canon if one wanted exposure to ideas separate from the Western Tradition. Instead of blindly criticizing the Western Canon or the Great Books idea, create a list of Mesopotamian Great Books, or the Eastern Canon focused on places like China, Japan and South Asia, maybe look into the myths and legends of indigenous cultures.

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