"DESIRES, RIGHT AND WRONG: The Ethics of Enough" by Mortimer J. Adler

"DESIRES, RIGHT AND WRONG: The Ethics of Enough"

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America's most prolific philosopher and encyclopedist (Haves Without Have-Nots, 1991; Truth in Religion, 1990; etc.) tries to work out a moral philosophy for the modern age, largely based on Aristotle, but somehow loses his readership along the way. The real genius of Adler has always been his ability to state the obvious in the moat startling manner imaginable: To several generations of students reared on skepticism or structuralism, his affirmations of objective reality and verifiable truth have come as revelations. The strength of his position lies not so much in its originality--for it is not original--as in its confidence, the chutzpah with which it flaunts those Thomistic and Aristotelian categories that most Western philosophers imagine to have been buried for good during the Enlightenment. Here, Adler attempts to apply the principles of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics to the contemporary world. The Aristotelian hierarchy is neatly laid out for us--the distinction between the summum bonum and totum bonum, the contrast between ends and means, the obligations that individuals and societies owe toward justice and love--but it is hard to see how Adler has refined Aristotle's position (apart from ""democratizing"" it) or how he has applied it in any way that would not have been suggested just as readily by a simple reading of Aristotle himself. Neither original nor profound, Adler's work here has the musty smell of leftover notes for an already published book. For those dismayed by modern philosophy, this could provide a nudge in another direction, but only insofar as it points to someone else. Read Aristotle instead.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Macmillan