Books by Mortimer J. Adler

Released: May 1, 2000

"Adler, who characterizes philosophy as 'rational talk about the basic problems of mankind,' is occasionally too talky, but for the most part delivers the rational discourse he promises."
This collection of transcripts from a 50-year-old educational TV series has its creaky moments, but overall it is surprisingly fresh, containing much sound thinking on a variety of philosophical questions. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1994

The philosopher for Everyman turns his attention to the place of painting and music in education in this small volume that is characteristically straightforward, but not too gripping. Adler (The Four Dimensions of Philosophy, 1993, etc.) argues against his own earlier work in saying that painting and music do not belong in the core of instructional materials. Rather, he argues, they belong to the realm of appreciation and delight. Through careful definitions of terms such as art, the arts, and ideas, the author seeks to demonstrate that the great ideas embodied in written literature, ideas that can be read and reread over and over without exhausting their potential, cannot exist in great painting or in great music. This, Adler asserts, is because great painting and music do not engage in conversation (``They do not affirm or deny. They do not disagree and dispute''). His strongest example of this is Picasso's Guernica, a work of art whose meaning, expressed in words, could be as simple as ``war is hell.'' In keeping strict lines between what is written and what is painted or played, between the intellect and the senses, Adler remains firmly in line with the oldest of philosophical camps. And other than some interesting insights into the genesis of the Great Books and Great Ideas series, the illustrative material is uniformly bland. Those who are interested in future curriculums that are more inclusive of gender and nonwestern cultures will want to avoid this one. The plodding, sometimes pedantic style and extensive excerpts from previously published works make this long on definitions and reiterations, short on burning issues. Read full book review >
Released: March 21, 1989

From the chairman of the board of the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica; author of 26 previous books—more than a score of essays about American education, many reprinted from other book publications but with several new essays, including a stinging attack (re the collection's subtitle) on Allan Bloom. Adler's platform for reforming education rests on his "Paideia" principles, which call for "a truly democratic system of education" based on dialectical (rather than Bloom's "doctrinal") discussion of great books—i.e., a classical education made available to "all children." At book's end, Adler offers a listing of the great books he thinks could form a proper educational basis; that they are all from the Western tradition glares out—is Gravity's Rainbow really more of a pillar of liberal education than the Koran?—but the list does provide a good starting point for reforms clearly needed in our disintegrating school systems. Read full book review >