How to Think about the Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization

Mortimer Jerome Adler, Author, Max Weismann, Editor Open Court Publishing Company $29.95 (530p) ISBN 978-0-8126-9412-3
Decades before Allan Bloom famously attacked multicultural education in The Closing of the American Mind (1988), there was Mortimer Adler. A university-trained philosopher, Adler (b. 1902) is the controversy-prone inventor of Great Books-driven college curricula; during the 1930s, he caused such a stir at the University of Chicago that the faculty members demanded his dismissal. Later (1953-1954), he starred in his own TV show, The Great Ideas--and it's that show that gives this book its structure. Composed of transcripts of 52 half-hour segments, the book showcases Adler's ideas about all the big categories--truth, beauty, freedom, love, sex, art, justice, rationality, humankind's nature, Darwinism, government. In each chapter (""How to Think about God,"" ""How to Read a Book,"" etc.), readers encounter Adler's philosophical instructions and opinions: he argues that the goal of both prison sentences and spankings should be to avenge, to reform and to deter others; he suggests that beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder; and--no surprise here--he confesses that he favors ""the ancient and traditional meaning of art."" Adler even takes up the subject of whether (and how) TV can be an effective educational tool. In the end, whether or not you agree with Adler, there's no question that the ideas he presents in these chapters are important. After all, they set the terms of a series of cultural and intellectual debates we're still having today--about art, curriculum and freedom. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/27/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
Open Ebook - 555 pages - 978-0-8126-9693-6
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