Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001

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American philosopher, educator, author.

From the description of Papers, 1939-1944. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 80110800

Mortimer Jerome Adler, philosopher, educator, writer. The Mortimer J. Adler Papers include information on his work with the Great Books, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the Institute for Philosophical Research as well as material relating to his many publications. The collection consists of articles, correspondence, manuscripts, memoranda, newspaper clippings, notes, reading lists, reprints, and other materials relating to the career of Mortimer J. Adler.

From the description of Mortimer J. Adler papers, 1914-1995 (inclusive) (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 603544564

Mortimer Jerome Adler, born 1902 in New York City, is an American philosopher, educator, and author. He began his career as a secretary and copywriter for the New York Sun and through a program of formal and self education was awarded a PhD from Columbia University (1928). Adler, who became associate professor there in 1930, continued to participate in the Honors program, instituted by John Erskine, which focused on the reading of the classics. His tenure at Columbia included study with such eminent thinkers as Erskine and John Dewey. This kind of environment inspired not only his interest in reading and the study of the great books of Western Civilization, but his insistence on the establishment of an integrated philosophy of science, literature, and religion.

It was this combination of interests that dominated his career at schools and research institutions such as the University of Chicago, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Institute for Philosophical Research, and the Aspen Institute, the last two of which he helped establish. Adler was also a board member of the Ford Foundation and the Encyclopedia Britannica, whose policies and programs he helped guide and significantly influence.

In 1930 he was appointed to the Philosophy faculty at the University of Chicago. Because of the innovations he proposed for the curriculum, his appointment led to a conflict with the faculty. These changes were based on Adler's central interests in the reading, discussion and analysis of classic literature and an integrated philosophical approach to the study of separate disciplines. By 1931 these interdepartmental wars resulted in Adler's reassignment to the Law School as Professor of Philosophy of Law. While he continued his educational reforms on a more conservative basis, the concept of seminars on great books and great ideas continued to gain inroads at other universities. In 1952, his work culminated in the publication by Britannica of the Great Books and Great Ideas series.

His earliest work resulted in the publication of Dialectic (1927), which focused on a summation of the great philosophical and religious ideas of Western Civilization -- ideas influenced by his fascination with medieval thought and sensibility. The work on which he had concentrated since his Columbia University days, together with a lecture series and essays produced in Chicago, resulted in several publications: The Higher Learning in America (1936), What Man Has Made of Man: A Study of the Consequences of Platonism and Positivism in Psychology (1937), Art and Prudence: A Study in Practical Philosophy (1937) and, in December 1940, How to Read a Book: The Art of Getting A Liberal Education. His interest in the liberal education of the common man came to fruition in How to Read a Book.

How to Think About War and Peace (1943), written in the political and social climate of the Second World War, continued his advocacy of a popular, yet intelligent approach to public education. Adler met life-long friend Clifton Kip Fadiman in a great books seminar taught by Adler at Columbia University. Fadiman later became an editor at Simon and Schuster, a literary critic for The New Yorker as well as the author of numerous essays and books. While corresponding with Adler throughout the writing of the book, he supplied, in 1943, the preface, A Plea to the Reader, for How to Think about War and Peace.

Adler has written voluminously throughout his career, consistently focusing on a cross-disciplinary and integrated philosophy of law, politics, religion, and education. Other books that reflect this theme include: The Common Sense of Politics (1971), Six Great Ideas: Truth, Beauty, Justice, Liberty: Ideas We Judge By, Ideas We Act On (1981), and The Paideia Program: An Educational Syllabus (1984). More recently he has been involved in creating video programs with Bill Moyers which focus on the subject of the Constitution and biographies of the justices of the Supreme Court. In 1992 he published a continuation of his autobiography Philosopher at Large (1977) entitled A Second Look in the Rearview Mirror: Further Autobiographical Reflections of a Philosopher at Large. In 1993 he published The Four Dimensions of Philosophy: Metaphysical, Moral, Objective, Categorical. The main criticism of his work remains the narrow focus and definition (Anglo-American, European and male) that he gives to greatness.

The Mortimer J. Adler Papers were donated by Adler and Fadiman to the Harry Ransom Center in two parts: the How to Read a Book papers in 1962 and the How to Think about War and Peace papers in 1963.

From the guide to the Mortimer Jerome Adler Papers TXRC93-A97., 1939-1944, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

Mortimer Jerome Adler was born on December 28, 1902 in New York City. His father, Ignatz, an immigrant from Bavaria, worked as a jeweler and his mother, Clarissa, was a former teacher. When he was fourteen, Adler dropped out of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx and went to work as a secretary and a copy boy for the New York Sun. He later enrolled in evening extension courses at Columbia University where he read John Stuart Mill's Autobiography and decided to become a philosopher. In 1920, a teacher who noticed his promise secured him a scholarship to Columbia University. He completed his degree in three years, but was denied a diploma because he refused to take physical education classes or the required swim test. Nevertheless Adler continued his graduate studies at Columbia where he studied with John Erskine and John Dewey. In 1983 Adler received an honorary B.A. from Columbia.

His earliest research resulted in the publication of Dialectic in 1927, which focused on a summation of the great philosophical and religious ideas of Western Civilization, ideas influenced by his fascination with medieval thought and sensibility. One year later, Adler received his PhD in philosophy from Columbia. In addition to his doctoral studies, Adler worked as in instructor in the psychology department at Columbia from 1923-1930 as well as City College and the People's Institute. University of Chicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins recruited Adler to the faculty in 1930, where he first joined then department of philosophy and later joined the Law School as an associate professor. He became a full professor in 1942. In 1945 Adler took a leave of absence in order to complete his work on the Synopticon (an index of 102 "great ideas" contained in the books) and on editing the 54-volume Great Books of the Western World Series (with Hutchins).

Adler joined the Board of Directors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1947 and became director of planning (1966) and chairman (1974) of the editorial executive committee. He was the force behind the first major revision of the encyclopedia in over 200 years, published in 1974 as The New Encyclopaedia Britannica.

In 1952 Adler resigned from teaching and moved to San Francisco to found the Institute for Philosophical Research with a grant from the Ford Foundation. The Institute was devoted to the study of Western thought and produced books such as the two-volume Idea of Freedom (1958, 1961). He married his second wife, Carline Sage Pring, in 1962. Adler had four sons; Mark, Michael, Douglas, and Philip.

In 1979, the Institute for Philosophical Research, under Adler's leadership, launched the Paideia Project (the name comes from a classical Greek word for education), which advocated for the reintroduction of great books and the Socratic method in the public schools. In 1982 Adler published The Paideia Proposal; An Educational Manifesto.

Throughout his career as a philosopher and educator, Adler has written voluminously, consistently focusing on a multi-disciplinary and integrated approach to philosophy, politics, religion, law, and education. Such works include Problems for Thomists; The Problem of Species (1940), How To Think About War and Peace (1944), How To Read A Book (1972, with Charles van Doren), Aristotle For Everybody ; Difficult Thought Made Easy (1978), How To Think About God, A Guide for the 20th-Century Pagan (1980), and Reforming Education, The Opening of the American Mind (1988).

Adler co-founded the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas with Max Weismann, and Editor in Chief of its journal Philosophy is Everybody's Business. He also was co-Founder and Honorary Trustee of The Aspen Institute

Adler, a self-described pagan for most of his life, converted to Christianity in 1984 and was baptized by an Episcopalian priest on April 21 of that year. In December of 1999, he converted to Roman Catholicism.

Mortimer Jerome Adler died on June 28, 2001 in San Mateo, California.

From the guide to the Adler, Mortimer J.. Papers, 1914-1995, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Mortimer J. Adler was born in New York City in 1902. He attended public schools in the city but dropped out at age 14 to work as a copy boy for the New York Sun . Eventually he returned to school and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1929. He taught at Columbia from 1923 until 1930 when, at the invitation of Robert Hutchins, he went to the University of Chicago. There he taught philosophy and helped to establish the great books program as well as the Great Books Foundation. Adler left his post as professor in 1952 to found and direct the Institute for Philosophical Research. The Institute went on to sponsor many publications, its first major one being The Idea of Freedom .

Adler introduced the Paideia Proposal which resulted in his founding the Paideia Program, a grade-school curriculum centered around guided reading and discussion of challenging works at all grade levels, and with Max Weismann he founded The Center for the Study of The Great Ideas.

As associate editor of Encyclopedia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World and co-editor of Great Ideas Today, Adler contributed over one hundred essays on the great ideas of Western Civilization. He authored many philosophical books, beginning with Dialectic in 1927 and including Art and Prudence, St. Thomas and the Gentiles, What Man Has Made of Man, a best seller called How To Read a Book, and The Conditions of Philosophy . He lectured extensively on the problems and questions of philosophy throughout his career.

From the guide to the Mortimer J. Adler Papers, 1937-1966, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001. Music appreciation; an experimental approach to its measurement. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Gladys Campbell papers, 1914-1995 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Committee to Frame a World Constitution. Records, 1945-1951 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001. Papers, 1939-1944. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001. Correspondence file, 1929 : from Horace Liveright, Inc. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Correspondence, 1860-1979. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Paepcke, Elizabeth H. Papers, 1889-1994 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001. Controversy and freedom, Book I : Thought and controversy / Mortimer J. Adler. St John's College Library, Greenfield Library
referencedIn Records, 1946-2000 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions Collection, 1950-1991, 1961-1987 University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections.
referencedIn Erskine, John, 1879-1951. John Erskine papers, [ca. 1890]-1951. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Simon, Yves René Marie, 1903-1961. Papers, 1920-1959. University of Notre Dame, Hesburgh Library
creatorOf Adler, Mortimer J.. Papers, 1914-1995 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn John Mason Brown papers, 1922-1967. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Frank, Jerome, 1889-1957. Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972 (inclusive), 1929-1957 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Buchanan, Scott, 1895-1968. Papers, 1911-1972. Harvard University, Houghton Library
referencedIn Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions Collection, Series 12: Audio-Visual, ca. 1956-1987 University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections.
referencedIn Jacques Barzun Papers, ca.1900-1999. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Adult Education Audio and Video Collection, 1952-1995 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972, 1929-1957 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion. Records. 1939-1977. 1940-1968. Ocean County College Library, OCC Library
referencedIn Hutchins, Robert M., and Associates. Oral History Interviews, 1958, 1973-1979 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn McKeon, Richard Peter. Papers, 1918-1985 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Barzun, Jacques, 1907-. Jacques Barzun papers, ca.1900-1999. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Van Doren, Mark, 1894-1972. Papers, [ca. 1917]-1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Benton, William. Papers, 1839-1973 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Mortimer Jerome Adler Papers TXRC93-A97., 1939-1944 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Assistant President. ILGWU. Gus Tyler papers, 1956-1996. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Arthur Unger collection of recorded interviews [sound recording] The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
creatorOf Koninck, Charles de. Papers, 1934-1965. University of Notre Dame, Hesburgh Library
referencedIn Campbell, Gladys, 1892-1992. Gladys Campbell papers, 1914-1995. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn ILGWU. Gus Tyler papers, 1956-1996 Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
referencedIn Brownell, Baker, 1887-1965. Baker Brownell Papers, 1904-1965. Northwestern University
creatorOf Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Records, 1952-1991. University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Library
creatorOf Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001. Letter to Frank Luther Mott. : Highland Park, IL. 1940 Aug. 18. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Paepcke, Elizabeth H., 1902-1994. Papers, 1889-1994. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Frank, Jerome, 1889-1957. Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972 (inclusive), 1929-1957 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001. Speeches delivered at the University of Virginia [manuscript] 1904-1947 (bulk 1938-1940). University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001. Mortimer J. Adler papers, 1914-1995 (inclusive) University of Chicago Library
referencedIn The Benny Goodman Papers, 1910-1992, inclusive Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University
referencedIn McKeon, Richard (Richard Peter), 1900-1985. Papers, 1918-1985 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Committee to Frame a World Constitution. Records, 1945-1951 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Kellogg, Paul Underwood, 1879-1958,. Paul U. Kellogg collection, 1899-1907. Western Michigan University, Dwight B. Waldo Library
creatorOf Mortimer J. Adler Papers, 1937-1966 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn Scott Millross Buchanan papers, 1911-1972. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Scott Millross Buchanan papers, 1911-1972. Houghton Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Aspen Institute corporateBody
associatedWith Barr, Stringfellow, 1897- person
associatedWith Barzun, Jacques, 1907- person
associatedWith Benton, William, 1900-1973 person
associatedWith Bevans, Tom Torre person
associatedWith Bevans, Tom Torre. person
associatedWith Bridges, Horace J., 1880- person
associatedWith Brownell, Baker, 1887-1965. person
correspondedWith Brown, John Mason, 1900-1969 person
correspondedWith Buchanan, Scott Millross, 1895-1968 person
associatedWith Buchanan, Scott Milross, 1895-1968 person
associatedWith Campbell, Gladys, 1892-1992. person
associatedWith Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. corporateBody
associatedWith Cerf, Bennett, 1898-1971 person
associatedWith Chase, Stuart, 1888- person
associatedWith Committee to Frame a World Constitution. corporateBody
associatedWith Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion. corporateBody
associatedWith Copland, Aaron, 1900- person
associatedWith Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990. person
associatedWith Encyclopaedia Britannica corporateBody
associatedWith Erskine, John, 1879-1951. person
associatedWith Fadiman, Clifton, 1904- person
associatedWith Frank, Jerome, 1889-1957. person
associatedWith Goodman, Benny, 1909- person
associatedWith Great books of the Western world corporateBody
associatedWith Gurian, Waldeman, 1902-1954 person
correspondedWith Harvard Law School Forum corporateBody
correspondedWith Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966 person
associatedWith Howe, Quincy, 1900- person
associatedWith Hutchins, Robert Maynard, 1899- person
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Assistant President. corporateBody
associatedWith Kellogg, Paul Underwood, 1879-1958, person
associatedWith Koninck, Charles de. person
associatedWith Lippmann, Walter, 1889-1971 person
associatedWith Lippman, Walter, 1889-1974. person
associatedWith Luce, Henry R., 1898-1967 person
associatedWith Maritain, Jacques, 1882-1973 person
associatedWith McKeon, Richard (Richard Peter), 1900-1985. person
associatedWith Mott, Frank Luther, 1886-1964, person
associatedWith Nef, John Ulric, 1899- person
associatedWith Paepcke, Elizabeth H., 1902-1994. person
associatedWith Schuster, M. Lincoln (Max Lincoln), 1897-1970 person
associatedWith Shimfin, Leon. person
associatedWith Simon and Schuster, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Simon, Richard L. (Richard Leo), 1899-1960 person
associatedWith Simon, Yves René Marie, 1903-1961. person
associatedWith Syracuse University Publications in Continuing Education person
associatedWith Tyler, Gus. person
associatedWith Unger, Arthur person
associatedWith Van Doren, Mark, 1894-1972. person
associatedWith Weidman, Jerome person
associatedWith Weidman, Jerome, 1913-1998. person
associatedWith White, E. B. (Elwyn Brook), 1899- person
associatedWith White, E. B. (Elwyn Brooks), 1899-1985. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
International organization
Books and reading
War
Civilization--Philosophy
Adult education
Intellectuals--United States
Law--Philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophers
Education, Humanistic
Religion and philosophy
Reading
Peace
Civilization, Western
Philosophers--United States
Dialectic
Philosophy, Modern
Authors, American
Educators--United States
Occupation
Educators
Philosophers
Authors
Function

Person

Birth 1902-12-28

Death 2001-06-28

Americans

English

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