In this delightfully lucid and accessible audiobook, America’s foremost philosopher, Mortimer J. Adler, explores 10 errors in the development of modern thought and examines the serious consequences they have in our everyday lives. Some of these mistakes include: (1) The mistake of identifying happiness with a good time rather than with that which is good for us; (2) The failure to differentiate between the perceptual and the conceptual realms of thought, by which the human mind is distinguished from the animal mind; and (3) The failure to acknowledge free will, which leads to the rejection of moral responsibility. Adler feels it is not too late to reverse the tide of escalating misconceptions and learn to live richer and happier lives. It is only unfortunate that in modern times, he says, "Much has been lost that might have been avoided if ancient truths had been preserved."
"Adler’s expositions are clear, well-organized, written in a simple style, and studded with examples to help the uninitiated grasp difficult distinctions - all that one would expect from a gifted teacher." (San Francisco Chronicle) "Adler has the knack of steering readers through deep intellectual waters and making it easy to stay afloat." (Pittsburgh Press) "British narrator Simon Vance, whose voice was made for philosophy, gives a superb interpretation that makes one long to hear him read the great philosophers, mistakes and all." (Library Journal)
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I feel it necessary to defend Adler's work from some of the unjustified criticism it's receiving in the reviews posted prior to my own. But first, I shall post my personal review.
My personal review is thus: I would've given "Overall" 4 stars for the book version, which I also own, but the performance of the audio version is so good that it brought out new aspects of the book for me, hence the 5 stars in "Overall." I am giving it 4 stars in story because Adler does give a justified defense of his position, but I think his position in this book could've been more detailed without disrupting the flow of his steady explanation.
There are several reasons why this is an excellent book that succeeds at its primary premise. A reviewer above me mentioned that truth is propositional, not absolute. Nowhere in this book does Adler claim to have found "absolute" truth. In fact, the book consists of a series of propositions about what Adler has referred to in his other works as "common sense," particularly, those ideas and beliefs which are common to all people, even across racial and national boundaries.
If Adler were proposing to write under the presuppositions of modernism, then he would be obligated to note that he's merely making propositional claims. But the whole point of the book, stated clearly in the introduction, is to refute just so many errors of modernism. Bearing this in mind, it should be clear that Adler is not going to be using modernist bromides such as: "All truth is merely propositional, therefore absolute certainty is impossible."
Furthermore, a thirty-second perusal of Adler's Wikipedia page will tell you that his primary influences include Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas; therefore no one reading this book should be expecting a critique that follows "modernist" rules. Considering that Adler has written one of the most accessible modern works on Aristotle, and bearing in mind Aristotle's all-encompassing philosophical realism, it would be nothing short of preposterous to expect Adler to be performing an internal, rather than an external, critique on modern philosophy.
Adler begins his critique with John Locke, zeroing in on Locke's failure to notice that not every idea in the mind is merely a representation of the external world, but that ideas in the mind have many different states that are both broader and deeper than simply "representations" in your head or "representations" in my head.
This is a particularly original and interesting tack, and not a critique of Locke that I've read among any of the major philosophers who wrote after him. In fact, it seems that just about all the major philosophers following Locke gladly took his concept of ideas being representations for granted, and did not even question if it was actually the correct way to conceive of ideas or not. We see this most notably utilized in Kant, who formalized and codified a system of ideas-as-mere-representations in his famous "Critique of Pure Reason."
After just the brief analysis I've made above, it should be clear that Mordimer J. Adler's book on the mistakes of modern philosophy is both an original and highly worthwhile work. I recommend it for either the beginner in philosophy, or the advanced practitioner. If you are interested in thinking like a philosopher, then seeing some of the best and most cogent logical arguments against the presuppositions of modern philosophy, from the presuppositions of ancient philosophy, is a great way way to "stump" your mind into circles for a while, a maze the job of which is a philosopher's to find their way out.