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Hardcover The Great Ideas: A Lexicon of Western Thought Book

ISBN: 0025005731

ISBN13: 9780025005730

The Great Ideas: A Lexicon of Western Thought

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Book Overview

About 45 years ago, Mortimer Adler sat down at his manual typewriter with a list of authors, books and 102 great ideas. He began writing in alphabetical order beginning with Angel and ending with World. The essays, originally published in the Syntopicon (1952), were part of Encyclopaedia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World, and were revised in 1988 for EB's second publication of the series. They are, according to Clifton Fadiman, Adler's...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Follow the Evolution of the Great Ideas - CLASSIC

The 102 Great Ideas are definite intellectual qualities that led to our current Western civilization's cultural mindset. From the many dozens of books that have been labeled 'the classics' have been culled 102 Great Ideas. Each idea is followed from the earliest of writers to modern times. Very fascinating book. A definite shoe-in for nomination for an only book to have on a desert island.

A succinct and intriguing roadmap for the timeless questions of life

Mortimer Adler guides a discussion across the ages, addressing profound questions ranging from the foundation of our universe to the composition of our selves. He paints the landscape of philosophy and science from thinkers as disparate as Plato, Nietzsche, Faraday, and Mill. The Great Ideas can help readers who seek answers to matters such as whether moral absolutes or practical utility should guide one's decisions, when a de jure authority merits obedience, and what duties a person owes to his society. An educator may benefit from Adler's exposition on whether morality can be taught and his summary of views on the responsibility of teachers to socialize or liberate youth. An economist may enjoy Alder's discussion of the value of labor, which touches upon the theories of Veblen, Marx, Weber, Keynes and other influential thinkers. Physicists may gain insights into the progression of the experimental method and the role of aesthetics in the formulation of scientific theory. Adler does not answer the timeless questions, but he brings to light their complexity. His book is ideal for readers who want to grasp the range of ideas. Readers must then draw their own conclusions about each Great Idea. Or, like Adler, they may leave each question of philosophy open for debate. The human race forever seeks answers, and sometimes the best questions simply require a few centuries of pondering.

Tour de Force of Intellectual Brilliance

Of all Mortimer Adler's various works, this one must rank at the top. It is a dynamic but reverent exploration of the 102 most important ideas of the Western World. These works eventually ended up in the Encyclopaedia Britannica's GREAT BOOKS OF THE WESTERN WORLD. They have now been published separately, a fact that all who are interested in advancement and civilization must applaud. The ideas are explored in a variety of ways - from what ancient, medieval and modern philosophers thought to a discussion of the history of the idea to its influence in the modern world. These are the building blocks of the foundations of Western civilization. Until recently, people who did not practice or recognize these ideas were considered "primitive". Only recently has there been a celebration from certain quarters of the uncivilized, uneducated and uncouth.Adler makes several presumptions, the foremost among them being that humans are rational creatures and that philosophical ideas are what really drives the world, with language being an adjunct of ourselves. Many of these ideas concern how we consider ourselves and not only the world around us. Throughout, Adler adopts a neutral stance toward support of a particular opinion but this does not mean he is morally or ethically neutral.This is a good reference book and an interest coffee table addition - sure to enlighten and enhance any conversation.

One of the Greatest Books

I have more than 2,000 books in my library, and I cherish none more than this great compendium of Western intellectual thought.The book has 102 chapters, covering every imaginable topic under the sun: such as Justice, War, Peace, Liberty, Freedom, Sin, the World, Intellect, Knowledge, and dozens more. Each chapter is about five pages, two columns each, of dense thought expressed throughout the ages -- from Plato through James, from Homer through Tolstoy, from Copernicus through Einstein -- highlighting the best that ever has been imagined or thought.The author synthesizes the great and important ideas arising over the eras, taking no sides, but expositing the different and divergent ideas these great thinkers committed to writing for posterity's benefit. It's like reading the whole library of the Great Books of Western Civilization in a thematic, rather than, serialized, manner. I've grown accustomed to reading a chapter a day, and then rereading these chapters as ideas pop up in other contexts. In these chapters I find such disparate sages as Jane Austin, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Aquinas, Descartes, Aristotle, Darwin, and everyone else who has something to contribute. This tome is truly encyclopeadic and catholic in scope and reference.If I had the time and the means, I would read these original sources for myself and develop a card catalogue of the massive resources for the mere pleasure of knowledge for its own sake. But as time doesn't permit such a rigorous endeavor, I find Adler's synthesis to be the next best thing.This book will be a great resource for the whole family, especially adults and adolescents just beginning their studies. It will be of great value to those of college-level, where many students are bereft of these great ideas, cast aside for more "politically correct" authors and ideas. This book is a suitable bromide against the myopia of modernity and its tendencies toward nihilism. Above all, it is the best that has ever been thought or said.

Seminal Thought

Rare is the author who can synthesize 2,500+ years of Western thought so ably and intelligently as Adler does in this wonderful collection of essays on almost every conceivable topic under the sun. This, to my way of thinking, is genuine philosophy, the study of wisdom and the importance it makes. This is not Anglo-American analytic philosophy, although Mr. Adler is very competent within its stringent criteria, nor is this Continental European ideology, although Mr. Adler is quite familiar with its panoply. This is, instead, a collection of essays on the most important issues that have confronted human beings since the beginning of time. They are crisply and perspicaciously written, drawing on the philosophy and thought of the major thinkers over the horizon of history. It is more encyclopeadic than spontaneous, and provides a great place for every student, regardless of age, to begin his/her inquiry into a vast array of subject matters. It's also a treasury chest to return to time and again.
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