In this delightfully lucid and accessible audiobook, America’s foremost philosopher, Mortimer J. Adler, explores 10 errors in the development of modern thought and examines the serious consequences they have in our everyday lives. Some of these mistakes include: (1) The mistake of identifying happiness with a good time rather than with that which is good for us; (2) The failure to differentiate between the perceptual and the conceptual realms of thought, by which the human mind is distinguished from the animal mind; and (3) The failure to acknowledge free will, which leads to the rejection of moral responsibility.
Adler feels it is not too late to reverse the tide of escalating misconceptions and learn to live richer and happier lives. It is only unfortunate that in modern times, he says, "Much has been lost that might have been avoided if ancient truths had been preserved."
©1985 Mortimer J. Adler (P)2000 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Adler’s expositions are clear, well-organized, written in a simple style, and studded with examples to help the uninitiated grasp difficult distinctions - all that one would expect from a gifted teacher." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"Adler has the knack of steering readers through deep intellectual waters and making it easy to stay afloat." (Pittsburgh Press)
"British narrator Simon Vance, whose voice was made for philosophy, gives a superb interpretation that makes one long to hear him read the great philosophers, mistakes and all." (Library Journal)
I feel it necessary to defend Adler's work from some of the unjustified criticism it's receiving in the reviews posted prior to my own. But first, I shall post my personal review.
My personal review is thus: I would've given "Overall" 4 stars for the book version, which I also own, but the performance of the audio version is so good that it brought out new aspects of the book for me, hence the 5 stars in "Overall." I am giving it 4 stars in story because Adler does give a justified defense of his position, but I think his position in this book could've been more detailed without disrupting the flow of his steady explanation.
There are several reasons why this is an excellent book that succeeds at its primary premise. A reviewer above me mentioned that truth is propositional, not absolute. Nowhere in this book does Adler claim to have found "absolute" truth. In fact, the book consists of a series of propositions about what Adler has referred to in his other works as "common sense," particularly, those ideas and beliefs which are common to all people, even across racial and national boundaries.
If Adler were proposing to write under the presuppositions of modernism, then he would be obligated to note that he's merely making propositional claims. But the whole point of the book, stated clearly in the introduction, is to refute just so many errors of modernism. Bearing this in mind, it should be clear that Adler is not going to be using modernist bromides such as: "All truth is merely propositional, therefore absolute certainty is impossible."
Furthermore, a thirty-second perusal of Adler's Wikipedia page will tell you that his primary influences include Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas; therefore no one reading this book should be expecting a critique that follows "modernist" rules. Considering that Adler has written one of the most accessible modern works on Aristotle, and bearing in mind Aristotle's all-encompassing philosophical realism, it would be nothing short of preposterous to expect Adler to be performing an internal, rather than an external, critique on modern philosophy.
Adler begins his critique with John Locke, zeroing in on Locke's failure to notice that not every idea in the mind is merely a representation of the external world, but that ideas in the mind have many different states that are both broader and deeper than simply "representations" in your head or "representations" in my head.
This is a particularly original and interesting tack, and not a critique of Locke that I've read among any of the major philosophers who wrote after him. In fact, it seems that just about all the major philosophers following Locke gladly took his concept of ideas being representations for granted, and did not even question if it was actually the correct way to conceive of ideas or not. We see this most notably utilized in Kant, who formalized and codified a system of ideas-as-mere-representations in his famous "Critique of Pure Reason."
After just the brief analysis I've made above, it should be clear that Mordimer J. Adler's book on the mistakes of modern philosophy is both an original and highly worthwhile work. I recommend it for either the beginner in philosophy, or the advanced practitioner. If you are interested in thinking like a philosopher, then seeing some of the best and most cogent logical arguments against the presuppositions of modern philosophy, from the presuppositions of ancient philosophy, is a great way way to "stump" your mind into circles for a while, a maze the job of which is a philosopher's to find their way out.
now I know why philosophy was so difficult at the University. I struggled with things that I knew were true what was being taught the opposite. now I know those were philosophical mistakes.
I liked the fact the author focuses on the important questions in philosophy. Written in a classical manner, so it doesn't draw you in if you don't listen carefully. Worth the focus.
I have. How to read a book written by Mortimer J Alder is an extremely useful book, and certainly helped me appreciate this one.
Not much. The book can sound a little monotonous, but it's probably the writing.
It was because it highlighted excellent thoughts in philosophy.
Sometimes I felt the author was too confident in asserting his position on ideas that don't have answers. I liked his choice of the 10 questions and what philosophers said about them.
This is a bold proposition from start to finish. The idea that any Philosopher can find the others mistakes and, somehow, has it better is perhaps brash. I found it interesting to walk through this work. I found most interesting was discussing various conceptions of man's "State of Nature" which some use a very interesting view of man as an individual to then bolster anarchism, libertarianism, etc.; yet science shows us man's social origins so this "State of Nature" seems like a ridiculous notion. He also makes an assertion which I recall from Nietzsche about Philosophy being concerned as much about what ought to be as with what is. He makes claims which I have trouble accepting. I am uncomfortable when Philosophy becomes a purely speculative and academic process. I think we need to think about what ought and what we are capable of. Our ideas of virtue in the past might not represent what man is, or is really capable of, or how man thrives best. (I am use man to refer to humans not just males.) I am glad that he did make clear his Aristotelian position in the book, since, until he did, I always felt like something was being hidden. I was left bothered by what I felt to be an inadequate definition of happiness. Perhaps, I missed it, but it seemed crucial to his arguments at points, and I am unclear what he meant. For someone so clear in so many ways, this seems to be a glaring omission.
How anyone can write even in 1985 that human beings are distinguished from animals by the fact that they have no instincts is beyond me...
Adler fails to grasp that truth is propositional, not absolute...
From these two mistakes follow Adler's defence of a sort of dualism and ultimately to his conversion to, of all things, Episcopalianism...
A good man so I understand, however his works of philosophy are pretty much useless today...
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