Mortimer J Adler Essays

Most Complete Bibliography

Biographical Sketch & Partial Bibliography

Dr. Mortimer J. Adler (December 28, 1902- June 28, 2001)

Chairman and Cofounder with Max Weismann of the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas and Editor in Chief of its journal Philosophy is Everybody's Business, Founder and Director of the Institute for Philosophical Research, Chairman of the Board of Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Editor in Chief of the Great Books of the Western World and The Syntopicon: An Index to the Great Ideas, Editor of The Great Ideas Today (all published by Encyclopaedia Britannica), Co-Founder and Honorary Trustee of The Aspen Institute, past Instructor at Columbia University, Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago (1930-52).

Ongoing programs started or developed by Dr. Adler include: The Great Books Foundation (with Robert Hutchins), the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults at the University of Chicago (with Robert Hutchins), the Executive Seminars of The Aspen Institute, the Paideia Project (a plan for major reform of public school education), and The Great Ideas seminars at the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas—all promoting liberal education through an understanding of great works of philosophy, literature, history, science, and religion.

For more detailed information about Dr. Adler, two auto-biographies covering his intellectual life, should be consulted: Philosopher at Large: An Intellectual Autobiography (1902-1976) Collier Books, Macmillan, 1992, originally published in 1977), and A Second Look in the Rearview Mirror: Further Autobiographical Reflections of a Philosopher at Large (Macmillan, 1992).

A Partial Bibliography - BOOKS

(1927) Dialectic

(1931) The Nature of Judicial Proof: An Inquiry into the Logical, Legal, and Empirical Aspects of the Law of Evidence (with J. Michael)

(1933) Crime, Law and Social Science (with Jerome Michael)

(1937) Art and Prudence: A Study in Practical Philosophy

(1937) What Man Has Made of Man: A Study of the Consequences of Platonism and Positivism in Psychology

(1940) The Philosophy and Science of Man: A Collection of Texts as a Foundation for Ethics and Politics

(1940) How to Read a Book: The Art of Getting a Liberal Education

(1941) A Dialectic of Morals: Towards the Foundations of Political Philosophy

(1944) How to Think About War and Peace

(1958) The Revolution in Education (with Milton Mayer)

(1958) The Capitalist Manifesto (with Louis O. Kelso)

(1958) The Idea of Freedom: A Dialectical Examination of the Conceptions of Freedom

(1961) The New Capitalists: A Proposal to Free Economic Growth from the Slavery of Savings (with Louis Kelso)

(1961) The Idea of Freedom: A Dialectical Examination of the Controversies about Freedom

(1961) Great Ideas from the Great Books

(1965) The Conditions of Philosophy: Its Checkered Past, Its Present Disorder, and Its Future Promise

(1966) How to Read a Book: A Guide to Reading the Great Books

(1967) The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes

(1970) The Time of Our Lives: The Ethics of Common Sense

(1971) The Common Sense of Politics

(1972) How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (with Charles Van Doren)

(1975) The American Testament (with William Gorman)

(1976) Some Questions About Language: A Theory of Human Discourse and Its Objects

(1977) Philosopher at Large: An Intellectual Autobiography

(1977) Reforming Education: The Schooling of a People and Their Education Beyond Schooling (edited by Geraldine Van Doren)

(1978) Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy

(1980) How to Think About God: A Guide for the 20th-Century Pagan

(1981) Six Great Ideas: Truth-Goodness-Beauty-Liberty-Equality-Justice

(1982) The Angels and Us

(1982) The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto

(1983) How to Speak / How to Listen

(1983) Paideia Problems and Possibilities: A Consideration of Questions Raised by The Paideia Proposal

(1984) A Vision of the Future: Twelve Ideas for a Better Life and a Better Society

(1984) The Paideia Program: An Educational Syllabus (with Members of the Paideia Group)

(1985) Ten Philosophical Mistakes

(1986) A Guidebook to Learning: For a Lifelong Pursuit of Wisdom

(1987) We Hold These Truths: Understanding the Ideas and Ideals of the Constitution

(1988) Reforming Education: The Opening of the American Mind (edited by Geraldine Van Doren)

(1990) Intellect: Mind Over Matter

(1990) Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth

(1991) Haves Without Have-Nots: Essays for the 21st Century on Democracy and Socialism

(1991) Desires, Right & Wrong: The Ethics of Enough

(1992) A Second Look in the Rearview Mirror: Further Autobiographical Reflections of a Philosopher At Large

(1992) The Great Ideas: A Lexicon of Western Thought

(1993) The Four Dimensions of Philosophy: Metaphysical-Moral-Objective-Categorical

(1994) Art, the Arts, and the Great Ideas

(1995) Adler's Philosophical Dictionary: 125 Key Terms for the Philosopher's Lexicon

(2000) How to Think about The Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization (edited by Max Weismann)

Edited Works

(1940) Scholasticism and Politics

(1952) Great Books of the Western World (52 vols.)

(1952) A Syntopicon: An Index to The Great Ideas (2 vols.)

(1961) The Great Ideas Today (1961-77, 17 vols.) (with Robert Hutchins)

(1963) Gateway to the Great Books (10 vols.) (with Robert Hutchins)

(1968) The Annals of America (21 vols.)

(1974) Propaedia: Outline of Knowledge and Guide to The New Encyclopaedia Britannica 15th Edition (30 vols.)

(1977) Great Treasury of Western Thought (with Charles Van Doren)

(1978) The Great Ideas Today (1978-1998 - 21 vols.)

(1990) Great Books of the Western World 2nd Edition (60 vols.)

(1990) A Syntopicon: An Index to The Great Ideas 2nd Edition (2 vols.)

Mortimer J. Adler archive courtesy of The Center for the Study of The Great Ideas.

(See The Radical Academy’s policy on Intellectual Property Rights, Copyrights, & Fair Use.)

“The only standard we have for judging all of our social, economic, and political institutions and arrangements as just or unjust, as good or bad, as better or worse, derives from our conception of the good life for man on earth, and from our conviction that, given certain external conditions, it is possible for men to make good lives for themselves by their own efforts.”Mortimer J. Adler

Book Review by Max Weismann
A review of Adler’s Philosophical Dictionary: 125 Key Terms for the Philosopher’s Lexicon.

Dr. Adler’s Briefing Room
Brief remarks by Dr. Adler on various topics and responses to questions that he has been asked. Also includes Dr. Adler’s insights into the nature of things.

Dr. Mortimer J. Adler comments on…

Also see:
Dr. Adler’s Insights into the Nature of Things
Dr. Adler’s Great Ideas from the Great Books

These are brief remarks on various topics and responses to questions that Dr. Adler has been asked.

  • Definition of Human Nature Whatever properties or tendencies are present in all men without exception are species-specific, and by this criterion they are natural. Any property or tendency that is found in some men, but not in others, whether the number in whom it is found is small or large, cannot be species-specific. It is a product of nurture or at most an endowment of individual nature, but in no case an endowment of specific nature.
  • The Totum Bonum The human good, the good for man as man, is a whole life made good by the possession of all the real goods toward which the common human nature of each individual tends for the satisfaction of its inherent needs. Since real goods are goods we ought to seek, the ideal of a good life as constituted by the sum total of real goods functions normatively as the complete or ultimate goal toward which we ought to strive. It is not the summum bonum, not the highest good in an order of goods, but the totum bonum,the whole of goods. And the moral obligation that each man has to make a good life for himself — to achieve this totum bonum in his individual life — is not only a categorical ought; it is also one that is universally binding on all men in the same way.
  • Self-Evident Propositions A self-evident proposition is one in which the opposite is unthinkable. We cannot think that the whole is less than any one of its parts or that a part is greater than the whole to which it belongs. The proposition that the whole is greater than any of its parts is certainly instructive as well as being self-evidently true. There are not many proposition that are self-evidently true. Among self-evident truths, the most important is the law on contradiction: nothing can have an attribute and not have it at one and the same time.

Philosophy in General

Ideas of Relevance to Law

Moral Philosophy and Ethics

Memorial Service & Remembrances

Special Feature
Dear Doctor:The delightful story of how Mortimer Adler got his Ph.D. — In his own words

Metaphysics and Epistemology

Political Philosophy

Equality and Inequality

Philosophy of Religion


On The Great Books

On Reading

Practical Advice

Capsule Comment


Dr. Mortimer J. Adler on


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