I was happy today to come across a good article on Mortimer Adler that detailed his continued relevance for today and tomorrow.
I say good because often the tendency is to caricature Adler as a sort of middle brow Aristotle for the Common Man of which A Great idea at the Time by Alex Beam is the archetype.
To be sure Adler was not an academic philosopher; he was no doubt abrasive; unlike the Ivory Tower Mandarins of his day, his books sold well; the damn print on the Britannica Great Books Series really was too small. But so what.
What I do know was that Adler wrote as clear as a bell and was able to make abstract ideas accessible to the average reader. His book How to Read a Book is without a doubt one of the most valuable books on education written by an American in the 20th century. And finally, bad translation and all, the Britannica Great Books volume on Homer was what I took with me to Afghanistan. Over 2,000 years later it is one of the best, if not the best, book on war ever written.
So yes, I am very happy to see Adler posthumously receive the credit he is due. Adler still offers a vision of the complete, classically educated man in contrast to our ‘educated’ modern barbarians. In fact, armed with a good grounding in grammar and logic a complete set of the Britannica Great Books if read with care and diligence rivals any education acquired at our illustrious universities. Homeschoolers can find ideas on how to implement the great books here see here. If a complete formal curriculum is your thing, the Great Books Academy an institution founded in order to foster the ideas of Mortimer Adler among homeschoolers is a great resource. For Catholics there is even a branch – the Angelicum Academy – for you.
As Adler would say “Philosophy is everybody’s business”.