Septivium Learn about everything

Welcome to Septivium

Welcome to this new site.

What’s it all about? I’ll describe the two thoughts that combined to lead me here.

First, I’m all too often aware of the gaps in my knowledge of the world. Like you, I’m reasonably well educated but we all suffer from our limited time in school coupled with education’s narrowing of our focus as we progress. At age fourteen I stopped studying history, biology and chemistry. At sixteen, geography, physics and English literature. And these are only areas of knowledge that fall within conventional school subjects — some topics aren’t on conventional curriculums.

Of course, like yours, my knowledge has increased since I left full-time education but only in a haphazard manner, picking up bits and pieces through newspapers, books, magazines, TV, etc. This is better than nothing but it lacks the structure that even the most vaguely organised learning provides. New facts and concepts land in a void dotted with clusters of random bits and pieces picked up over the years, rather than contributing to a coherent view of how the world works.

On to the second thought. A possible solution occurred to me when I came across The Personal MBA. The site provides a reading list of business books which, along with some real world business experience, aims to give people an education similar to an MBA without the huge cost. The books and other topics can be discussed in the online community. This really excited me — I wanted to start reading and I’ve never previously wanted to do an MBA.

And then I thought… couldn’t something like this work for a broader topic than business? A topic as broad as… everything?

How about a reading list featuring the very best books on dozens of topics, allowing readers to fill in the gaps in their knowledge, connect the dots between disparate subjects, and discuss these ideas with fellow readers around the world.

Get a degree in everything.

So that was, and is, the general idea. In the next few posts I’ll elaborate on some of the related thoughts I’ve had, and discuss some of the many unresolved problems and questions involved.

If this idea intrigues you I’d love to hear your thoughts at any point. And if you know someone else who might be interested, please point them this way. Thanks.



I have been thinking about how to go about reading everything I have wanted to know for some time now but have found the prospect of the task too daunting to actually get anywhere with it. There is just no way you can read up on every aspect of knowledge that one would like to be knowledgable about. So what do you leave out and omit? The other problem I think is that its not enough to read a book, you have to study it – learn something from it, remember its main themes and then link those in with other areas. You can spend months trying to figure out a decent study/learning method. I’m currently using faviki ( )

One thing I have decided upon is that it is not always necessary to read every book on each specific subject/person. Often an overview of a subject area is good enough. One book I would highly recommend is ‘A Terrible Beauty’ by Peter Watson, which is a great overview of the main intellectual ideas of the 20th century – art, philosophy, science, literature, sociology, etc.

No doubt you would also be interested and may already know about the Great Books list ( ), which arises out of the work done by Motimer Adler ( ).

Oh and heres a good science reading list –


Posted by phil at 11pm, 18 February 2009 #

This is a great project.

My own education sucked, mostly because I wasn’t yet prepared to do the work of engaging ideas at 18 and 19 and also because I probably irritated and/or repelled the people who could have been my guides and mentors. So I feel – acutely – the gaps in my knowledge, and have long wanted to put that situation to rights.

I’ve even considered going back for a second liberal arts BA at a decent school, and this time taking the process seriously. But that’s expensive, and if I’m going to be frank about it there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to disengage my ego and learn. So I think you’re onto something here.

I don’t ever think you’re going to get even rough consensus on what constitutes “the best” for certain areas, but you’ll certainly turn up the prime candidates. The core of any such curriculum, though, as you’ve alluded to, is the discussion that happens around and after any such reading, and I wonder if online fora are sufficient to your purpose here. I’m inclined to say there really does have to be a physical, collegial, dialectical component to any engagement with ideas that’s intended to stick.

Let me know what you come up with, though. I’ll be very interested to see where you take this.

Posted by AG at 8am, 19 February 2009 #