The Dream of a Democratic Culture: Mortimer J. Adler and the Great Books Idea

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Adler discussing Socrates as a man, a teacher, and a philosopher, with reenactments by Tony Van Bridge as Socrates Promoting Truth in Religion Dualism Defended: First, if theism is true, then physicalism as a worldview is false. God is not a physical being. Second, a number of I may have forgotten to put the picture of the book up.

Mortimer J. Adler and the Great Books Idea

Sorry about that. These are the things I got out of this book the most. Written Review Explainer Video Dr Adler discussing Encyclopaedia Britannica 2nd edition release. TOP 20 Mortimer J.

Adler, Mortimer Jerome 1902-2001

Adler Quotes. Quick update on some books I'll be reading prior to the Iliad, and my thoughts on the excellent "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler. James M. Reading Autobiography. Sidonie Smith. Old Books and New Histories. Leslie Howsam. Mass Communication and American Social Thought.

Peter Simonson. A Great Idea at the Time. Alex Beam.

  1. Duplicate citations?
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  3. The Travel and Tropical Medicine Manual.
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Tradition and the Black Atlantic. Henry Louis Gates. George H. Richard Wright's Native Son. Andrew Warnes. The Promise of Sociology. Rob Beamish. Workshops of Empire. Eric Bennett. Irving Lewis Horowitz. The New Era. Paul V. The Philosophical I. Nicholas Rescher. Class, Race, and Marxism. David Roediger.

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America the Philosophical. Carlin Romano. Cool Characters. Lee Konstantinou. Science, Democracy, and the American University. Andrew Jewett. Processing the Past. William G. The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry since Jennifer Ashton. Professing Literature.

Gerald Graff. The Disciplinary Frame. John Tagg. Theory of Collective Behavior. Neil J. Beloved Community. Casey Nelson Blake. American Literary Criticism Since the s.

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

Vincent B. Poets Beyond the Barricade. Dale M. The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilisation. Elton Mayo. The Politics of Liberal Education. Darryl Gless. Una Cadegan. Portraits of American Philosophy. Steven M. Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace. Linda M. Keepers of the Code. Robert Lecker. Explorations in Communication and History. Barbie Zelizer. William Haarlow. Arguments Within English Marxism. Q: Selecting a core set of texts was only part of Adler's pedagogical program.

The teaching was, or is, pitched at people of diverse age groups, social backgrounds, and so on -- with an understanding that there are numerous ways of engaging with the material. Would you say something about that? A: The great books idea in education whether higher, secondary, or even primary was seen by its promoters as intellectually romantic, adventurous even. It involved adults and younger students tackling primary texts instead of textbooks.

As conceived by Adler and Hutchins, the great books idea focused people on lively discussion rather than boring Ben Stein-style droning lectures, or PowerPoints, or uninspiring, lowest-common-denominator student-led group work. One can of course pick up bits of E. Hirsch-style "cultural literacy" e. But the deepest goal of Adler's model of close reading was to lead everyday people into the high stakes world of ideas. This was no mere transaction in a "marketplace of ideas," but a full-fledged dialogue wherein one brought all her or his intellectual tools to the workbench.

Adler, Hutchins, John Erskine, Jacques Barzun, and Clifton Fadiman prided themselves being good discussion leaders, but most promoters also believed that this kind of leadership could be passed to others. Indeed, the Great Books Foundation trained and still trains people to lead seminars in a way that would've pleased Erskine and Adler. Education credentials matter to institutions, but the Foundation was willing train people off the street to lead great books reading groups.

This points to the fact that the excellent books by famous authors promoted by the great books movement, and the romance inherent in the world of ideas, mattered more than the personality or skill of any one discussion moderator. All could access an engagement with excellence, and that excellence could manifest in texts from a diverse array of authors.

Q: It seems like the tragedy of Adler is that he had this generous, capacious notion that could be called the Great Books as a sort of shorthand — but what he's remembered for is just the most tangible and commodified element of it. A victim of his own commercial success? A: Your take on the tragedy of Adler is pretty much mine. The idea came to be seen as a mere byproduct of his promotional ability.

The more admirable, important, and flexible project of close readings, critical thinking, and good citizenship devolved into a sad Culture Wars spectacle of sniping about race, class, and gender. This is why I tried, in my "Coda and Conclusion" to end on a more upbeat note by discussing the excellent work of Earl Shorris and my own positive adventures with great books and Adler's work. Q: Was it obvious to you from the start that writing about Adler would entail a sort of prehistory of the culture wars, or did that realization come later?

A: At first I thought I would be exploring Adler's early work on the great books during my graduate studies. I saw myself intensely studying the ss period. Indeed, that's all I covered for my master's project which was completed in However, I began to see the Culture Wars more clearly as I began to think in more detail about the dissertation.

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It was right around this time that I wrote a short, exploratory paper on Adler's s-era Paideia Project. When I mapped Paideia in relation to "A Nation at Risk" and William Bennett, I began to see that my project would have to cover Bloom, the Stanford Affair, and the release of the second edition of Britannica's set. Around the same time I also wrote a paper on Adler's late s books. When I noticed the correlation between his reactions to "The Sixties" and those of conservative culture warriors, it was plain to me that I would have to explore Adler as the culture warrior.

So even though I never set out to write about the Culture Wars, I got excited when I realized how little had been done on the topic, and that the historiography was thin. My focus would limit my exploration unlike Andrew Hartman's forthcoming study , but I was pleased to know that I might be hanging around with a vanguard of scholars doing recent history on the Culture Wars. How aware of Bloom's book and its aftermath were you when you bought and started reading the Great Books?

This requires a little background explanation. I started college in and finished in As a small-town Midwestern teenager and lates high schooler, I was something of a rube when I started college. I'm ashamed to admit, now, how unaware I was of the cultural scene generally. Moreover, I was insulated from some of it, and its intensity, during my early college years when it was at its height because I began college as an engineering student. Not only was my area of study far outside the humanities, the intensity of coursework in engineering sheltered me from all news beyond sports my news reading outlet at the time. Even when I began to see that engineering wasn't for me, around , my then vocational view of college caused me to move to chemistry rather than a humanities subject. My own rudimentary philosophy of education kept me from thinking more about the Culture Wars until my last few years as a college student.

It was then that I first heard about Bloom and his book. Even so, I only read passages in it, through the work of others, until I bought a copy of the book around I didn't read The Closing of the American Mind , word-for-word, until around while dissertating. A: In my book you can see that Adler really wanted it known that he believed Leo Strauss and all his disciples, especially Bloom, were elitists. Adler believed that the knowledge philosophy, history, theology, psychology, etc.

While scholarship and the knowledge of elites could add to what one gained from reading great books, there was a great deal in those works that was accessible to the common man and hence available to make better citizens. So while Adler was sort of a comic-book character, you might say he was a clown for democratic citizenship -- a deceptively smart clown champion for democratizing knowledge and for raising the bar on intelligent discourse.