Mortimer Adler Term Paper

Download this Term Paper in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Term Paper:

Mortimer Adler

Few heirs apparent of both modern day philosophy and orthodox Christianity exist, unless one considers Mortimer Jerome Adler. Adler was a well-respected philosopher and educator, with influence in the religious sector as well as the educational reformation movement. To consider the many and varied courses of interest Adler followed, a thorough understanding of his background must be cited. Potentially, Adler's most significant contribution was to education, as a result of the summation of his valuable life experiences, intellectual genius, and integration of philosophy and classical literature.

Adler was born in New York City on December 28, 1902, to immigrants Ignatz Adler, a jewelry salesman, and Clarissa Manheim, a schoolteacher. Despite dropping out of school at the age of fourteen, Mortimer Adler gained an interest in journalism while working as a copy boy at the New York Sun, later taking writing classes at Columbia University. It was during his time spent at Columbia that he took up reading classical literature (Bertucci, 2000).

Adler began reading Plato when he was fifteen, pursuing a curiosity of Western philosophy, and continued at Columbia on a scholarship. His personal interest and dedication to philosophy and classical literature earned him a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia; he skipped receiving his high school diploma, bachelor's degree, and master's. Adler's distinct reputation gained him a teaching position at Columbia. However, he preferred to lead discussions in classical literature and was greatly influenced by John Erskine, a fellow teacher, who taught on Western classics. Erskine was not the only influence on Adler at this time as John Dewey, another professor and philosopher at Columbia, and the designer of the Dewey Decimal System, shifted Adler's philosophy on education and stimulated his opposition to Dewey's philosophical basis (Bertucci, 2000).

Adler held great value in Aristotle's theories of universal truths, which disagreed with Dewey's scientific and pragmatic perspective. Adler considered Dewey's rigid compartmentalization of course curricula as disagreeable to the educational experience. He, instead, promoted the interconnection of all courses (i.e. literature, science, religion) for the optimal liberal arts education. It was this commitment to his philosophical ideals of education that later prompted him to become involved in educational reform. (Bertucci, 2000). In the meantime, Adler went on to become a professor at the Univeristy of Chicago, and later started the Institute for Philosophical Research in Chicago in 1942. He was listed in the Who's Who in America as a noted philosopher. He also pursued an editorial career with Encyclopaedia Brittanica as the editor of the fifteenth edition, as well as serving several other distinguished roles with Brittanica, and wrote and edited the classics collection series titled Great Books of the Western World (Muck, 1990). He wrote over fifty works, the first of which was Dialectic in 1927, a discussion of Western philosophy and religion (Bertucci, 2000), continuing to write and edit on philosophy and educational reform until his death at the age of 98 (Colson, 2001).

Adler became ill and bedridden in 1984, which influenced his faith in Christianity. This didactic change from his previously pagan position, rooted in philosophical truths, proved to be yet another diverse aspect of Adler's philosophical pursuits (Colson, 2001). As Adler philosophically reasoned, "Articles of faith are beyond proof. But they are not beyond disproof. We have a logical, consistent faith...[in] Christianity...But there are elements to it that can only be described as mystery'" (Muck, 1990). While Adler's philosophical theories, religious influences, and advancement of the discussion of classical Western literature define the framework of the man, it was the sum of these parts that led to his distinctive contribution to educational reform.

Adler's work in the educational forum paved the way for many future efforts in educational reform, and proved to be his legacy. It was his earlier relationship with Dewey that stimulated his greatest opposition to the progression of education. Dewey's pragmatic view of education encompassed a perception that schools served the good of the state for the purpose of socializing children. He also believed that professional educators alone should determine the directives of education, backed by government authority, and without social intervention. Thus, he did not consider that the people were capable of making satisfactory decisions on education. Adler, however, believed in classical education and the influence of social construction, emphasizing a curriculum based on Western literature and philosophical principles. He stressed the unchanging value of truths: "There are universal truths about what constitutes a good education, for all men at all times and places simply because they are men'" (Colson, 2001). His philosophical vision for education defended the past framework where classical works in literature through the ages, mingled with the sciences, philosophy, and religion, brought, what he perceived, as the optimal level of education. Thus, Dewey's scientific method of educational delivery and curricula formation, which was growing in popularity in the schools, was considered by Adler to generate "moral and intellectual chaos," with reformation necessary and immediate.

Adler's promotion of classical works, especially in his published book How to Read a Book, in 1940, did advance a movement in the American homes of reading classical literature, which in turn stimulated the rise of Western classics in the classrooms during the 1950s (Bertucci, 2000). Adler, in his book, A Second Look in the Rearview Mirror: Further Autobiographical Reflections of a Philosopher at Large (1994), considered the need for educational reform, with an emphasis on the incorporation of works done by classical and contemporary thinkers to be integrated in the curricula. He also stressed the assimilation of religious studies alongside philosophical ones (a convergence he did not himself partake in until his later years), as religion in itself created its own controversy and is worthy of solid discussion.

A core emphasis in curricula reformation, promoted by Adler, was the complete restructuring of how knowledge was dispersed and theories taught. His view that philosophy and the literary classics are embedded in all subjects underlied his theory that educational pursuits should follow a great dialogue on all subjects in one forum. Rather than studying distinct subjects, as in Dewey's compartmentalized fashion, Adler believed that the core curriculum should be more generalized to integrate all subjects into one course of studies. From there, the student could augment his studies with an emphasis in his choice of subjects that follow a chosen career path. He proposed that this integrated form of education should begin at the elementary education level and continued on through undergraduate studies, with a B.A. degree awarded at the time of successful completion of such studies, around the age of sixteen.

The next level of education, in the universities, should then allow for a specialization to be added to the curriculum (Bertucci, 2000). It was the dialogue aspect, and the synthesis of subject matter, that carved Adler's distinct perception on educational reform.

Adler's view of the "great educational experience" necessitated a connection of curriculum and knowledge through dialogue. Experiencing the "whole of a liberal education or certainly the core of it,'" required, "highly civil conversations about important themes and in a spirit of inquiry,'" as he stated. This dialogue could come about through conversations on references, quotations, refutations, and other methods of evaluating the philosophical and literary truths based in the subject matter. In 1982, Adler published his work, The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto, which described his theories on educational reform in the classroom. His ideas on dialogue were introduced as the Socratic method where discussion groups would be stimulated by the combination of didactic learning through lecturing and skills instruction through coaching, with the method and emphasis on the Socratic method increased through grade levels. In the face of declining performance measures among students, Adler's method proved to be successful in the institutions that utilized it. In those schools, the educational attitudes, skills, and understanding were improved (Bertucci, 2000). It…[continue]

Cite This Term Paper:

"Mortimer Adler" (2004, April 17) Retrieved December 5, 2016, from

"Mortimer Adler" 17 April 2004. Web.5 December. 2016. <>

"Mortimer Adler", 17 April 2004, Accessed.5 December. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Truths by Mortimer Adler Review Current Literature

    Truths by Mortimer Adler. Review current literature. Mortimer Adler was a man who made significant contributions to the field of education The following information is provided to create a better understanding of the man and his writing. Mortimer Adler is known for his many contributions to the field of education and philosophy. Throughout his professional and personal life, he was consumed with the desire to learn and to teach others. His approach

  • Worldviews Remification of Worldviews Mortimer J Alder an

    Worldviews Remification Of Worldviews Mortimer j.Alder an American philosopher an intellect and a person of remarkable wisdom did not believe that education should be determined by social engineering but unchanging standards of truth. What Alder was trying to say? Mortimer Alder in his statement "more consequences for thought and action follow affirmation of denial of God than from answering any other basic question" was trying to point out an argument about existence of

  • Human Nature Difference Between Man and Animal Mortimer J Adler

    Human Nature, Difference Between Man and Animal With respect to human nature, some philosopher argue that humans and animals are the same, while others reject it; but the strangest conflict is the conflict of Aristotelian and Thomist view point, which despite appearing to be the same are at lock heads with each other. When describing the impalpable in terms of the Aristotelian point-of-view, in regards to the visible dissimilarities among animals, contrary

  • Believing or Not Believing More

    As such, it is clear that my own personal belief in God shapes the way I view and experience the world, as well as my decisions in how to act within it. There are both theistic and naturalistic consequences to the act of believing or not believing. Essentially, from a theistic perspective, not believing can have detrimental consequences on the individual. Not believing leaves one open to not participating in

  • Paideia Proposal in a Work

    (p. 55-56) The educational system up to this point, very likely to continue in the future, has swung back and forth between these two philosophies (individualist and essentialist) in a pendulum effect, as educators seek to engender interest for knowledge in the student. Interestingly the application of the core principles in the Paideia Proposal can be applied to both swings of the pendulum as it demands that the core subjects

  • Absolutism and Exclusionism in Religion in Truth

    Absolutism and Exclusionism in Religion in Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religion and Unity of Truth by Mortimer Adler Numerous discourses discussing issues about the plurality or absolutism of religion, relating these issues in the manner of living, particularly the moral aspect of subsisting to a particular form of religious philosophy. The development of a more complex, yet organized, human society at the turn of the 20th century gave incidence

  • Moral Theology in Today s Economically

    The principle of harmony's job is to take corrective actions when needed in order to create the balance of economic justice between the principles. For example, when the other two principles are violated by such things as unjust social barriers to either participation or distribution, the principle of harmony works to eradicate these barriers and thus restore economic harmony, or justice. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, economic harmonies is

Read Full Term Paper
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved