Cover image for Intellect : mind over matter
Intellect : mind over matter
Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001.
Publication Information:
New York : Macmillan ; London : Collier Macmillan, [1990]

Physical Description:
xvi, 205 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


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Material Type
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BF161 .A435 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Author Notes

Born in New York, Mortimer Adler was educated at Columbia University. Later as a philosophy instructor there, he taught in a program focused on the intellectual foundations of Western civilization. Called to the University of Chicago in 1927 by President Robert Maynard Hutchins, Adler played a major role in renovating the undergraduate curriculum to center on the "great books." His philosophical interests committed to the dialectical method crystallized in a defense of neo-Thomism, but he never strayed far from concerns with education and other vital public issues.

From 1942 to 1945, Adler was director of the Institute for Philosophical Research, based in San Francisco, California. Beginning in 1945 he served as associate editor of Great Books of the Western World series, and in 1952 he published Syntopicon, an analytic index of the great ideas in the great books. In 1966 he became director of the editorial planning for the fifteen edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and in 1974, chairman of its editorial board.

Adler has been devoted in recent years to expounding his interpretations of selected great ideas and to advocating his Paideia Proposal. That proposal would require that all students receive the same quantity and quality of education, which would concentrate on the study of the great ideas expressed in the great books, a study conducted by means of the dialectical method.

Mortimer J. Adler died June 28, 2001 at his home in San Mateo, California at the age of 98.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Our premier popular philosopher here argues the continued usefulness of the now commonly disparaged term mind. It is a useful concept, he avers, because neither psychological behaviorism nor the varieties of existential philosophy have successfully shown that the brain and brain activities are sufficient to account for what we call thought. Something that as yet must be regarded as immaterial is involved in intellection, the peculiar activity of intelligence that distinguishes humans from all other creatures. Readers unacquainted with modern philosophy will be astonished to learn of its shortcomings in common sense that Adler then proceeds to point up and excoriate. He is ever on the side of common sense, provided that it is genuinely sensible, i.e., informed by observable data. If sometimes even he becomes tiringly abstract and stiff, that's the trouble with philosophy. No one writes it more accessibly, not in our time. To be indexed. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this provocative essay Adler ( A Guidebook to Learning , etc.), chairman of the editorial board of the Encyclopedia Britannica , among other distinguished positions, considers intellect as the quality separating humans from animals, who possess cognitive perception. Arguing a case for mind over matter, he cites intellect as the agent responsible for uniquely creative activity. Discussing ``Virtue and Vice'' he warns against neglecting and/or misusing the intellect and urges the attainment of intellectual virtues such as prudence and strength of character as prerequisites to acquiring ``good intellectual habits.'' The liberal arts, he stresses, ``should be in everyone's habitual possession''; according to Adler, it is not possible today for anyone to be a specialist in all fields. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Written in his usual clear and readable style, this book is Adler's attempt to resolve the old philosophical question of mind/body dualism; in other words, is mind (Adler's ``intellect'') a purely physical phenomenon, or is it something else? Adler argues that intellect is a nonmaterial component of humans, though having a physiological base. It is this quality of intellect that distinguishes humanity from other species and that endows us with certain duties and characteristics. In the course of his examination of the question, Adler looks at both artificial and extraterrestrial intelligence, as well as the uses and abuses of intellect. Thoughtful, but the original question remains.-- Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ., Lennoxville, Quebec (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Adler is a philosopher with a worldwide reputation for presenting learned treatises on broad topics of concern to both the person on the street and the professional academic. Importantly, he has the skill to express his ideas in a way that is understandable to the general reader, yet he deals with crucial issues in a way that satisfies the more technically sophisticated thinker. In the present book, Adler takes pains to distinguish the uniquely human side of intelligence, the intellect. The current zeitgeist in certain areas of the behavioral sciences supports the blurring of distinctions between the skills and abilities of human and nonhuman primates. In contrast to this position, Adler discusses the features that distinguish the mental capacities and abilities that are clearly human, mental abilities that cannot be observed in nonhuman species. Although this is not a popular position, Adler argues his case well. Even if one may argue successfully against certain positions espoused by Adler in this work, the book will be a valuable counterpoint for considerations of the features of intelligence that humans share with other species and those features that are uniquely human. Suitable for all readers. -K. F. Widaman, University of California, Riverside