Mortimer J. Adler Archive

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

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“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


One of Dr. Adler’s Classic Works

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, by Mortimer J. Adler

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Scroll down for information about the related DVD on How to Read a Book.

Adler on Salesmanship

The Ideas of Work and Leisure

  • Part 1 – – (Introduction; The Six Parts of Life)
  • Part 2 – – (Categorizing Human Activities; Sleep or Sleeping; Work or Working that is Toil or Labor; Work or Working that is Leisuring Rather than Toiling; Playing or Amusing One’s Self)
  • Part 3 – – (Is a Particular Activity Sleep, Toil, Leisure, Play, or Some Mixture of These?)
  • Part 4 – – (The Spectrum of Work, Compensated and Uncompensated; Idling and Rest)
  • Part 5 – – (The Options Open to Us for the Use of Our Free Time)
  • Never Say “Retire”
  • What Should One Do About Learning a Living?


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