Mortimer Adler

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Mortimer Adler

He was born in New York, New York to a jewelry salesman and a former schoolteacher. He left high school at the age of 15 determined to educate himself through books. He planned to have a career in journaling but when he was introduced to the works of Plato, his life changed. He was comforted by Plato’s sense of order and truth in the universe. He attended Columbia but never received his degree after 2 years as he refused to pass his swimming test. He then went on to continue his studies in philosophy and after he was awarded his B.A. he was awarded his Ph.D. He moved to the philosophy department of the university of Chicago where he later became a professor in philosophical law.


Mortimer Adler worked within Aristotelian and Thomistic traditions. He was a Perennialist who believed that philosophy should become part of mainstream public school curriculum. Perennialism is a theory that education should be the ideas that have lasted over centuries. They believe the ideas are as relevant and meaningful today as when they were written. He believes that one should learn from the great texts of Plato, Sacretes and other great minds. Challenging texts are the only way to learn. Teachers are life long learners and no one can claim to be educated until they are at least 60.

How to Read a Book (1940, nonfiction)A Dialectic of Morals (1941)The Revolution in Education (1958, with Milton Mayer)The Conditions of Philosophy (1965, lectures)The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes (1967, lectures)The Time of Our Lives (1970, lectures)Philosopher at Large: An Intellectual Autobiography (1977, memoir)Aristotle for Everyone (1978)How to Think About God (1980)Six Great Ideas (1981)The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto (1982)How to Speak, How to Listen: A Guide to Pleasurable and Profitable Conversation (1983)The Paideia Program: An Educational Syllabus (1984)Ten Philosophical Mistakes (1985, philosophy)A Second Look in the Rearview Mirror (1992, memoir)

"Called for the abolition in American schools of multitrack educational systems, arguing that a single elementary and secondary school program for all students would ensure the upgrading of the curriculum and the quality of instruction to serve the needs of the brightest and to lift the achievement of the least advantaged. He proposed that specialized vocational or preprofessional training be given only after students had completed a full course of basic education in the humanities, arts, sciences, and language."-Encyclopedia Britanica

Education Reform


American National Biography Online: Adler, Mortimer J. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2014, from J. Adler. (2014). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from Adler. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2014, from Web site: more at

Mortimer Adler

December 28, 1902- June 28, 2001


“The great authors were great readers, and one way to understand them is to read the books they read.”

Other Acknowledgements1. He served on the Board of Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica.2. He founded and served as director of the Institute for Philosophical Research in 1952.3.He has written over 50 books in his life.

"Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of like men."

“The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live.”

'The telephone book is full of facts, but it doesn't contain a single idea."

'If you never ask yourself any questions about the meaning of a passage, you cannot expect the book to give you any insight you do not already possess.'


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