Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
In association with the The Adler-Aquinas Institute and Aquinas School of Leadership
A Founding Member of the Alliance for Liberal Learning

Monday, March 30, 2020

Soul Proprietor

Edward Feser reviews Are We Bodies or Souls? by Richard Swinburne, at First Things


Friday, March 27, 2020

How to Become Educated

This bonus issue of the Center’s weekly, The Great Ideas Online (No. 1035), discussed advice from Mortimer Adler from July 1979.

TGIO is emailed to members.

At the Center’s website you’ll find information on how to Become a Member.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Monday, March 23, 2020

He Questioned the Meaning of Life. William James Answered.

John Williams reviews Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life, by John Kaag, at The New York Times.


Friday, March 20, 2020

The Trouble With Academic Prose

Dancing With Professors, by Patricia Nelson Limerick, at The New York Times.

"While we waste our time fighting over ideological conformity in the scholarly world, horrible writing remains a far more important problem. For all their differences, most right-wing scholars and most left-wing scholars share a common allegiance to a cult of obscurity. Left, right and center all hide behind the idea that unintelligible prose indicates a sophisticated mind. The politically correct and the politically incorrect come together in the violence they commit against the English language."

#education #language

Monday, March 16, 2020

How to Read Business Books When You’re Too Busy to Read

'About 11,000 business books are published every year. Here’s a strategy to get through the most important ones.'

Todd Sattersten at Marker.

"During my sophomore year of high school, a family moved into our rural southeastern Wisconsin school district. The two kids had been educated at private schools in the inner suburbs of Chicago, which was immediately evident by the books they were reading. The son was a year older than me, and his selections of Poe, Twain, and Fitzgerald were distantly familiar, but one day he entered reading Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book. You can imagine the number of times he was sarcastically asked, 'How do you read a book about reading books if you don’t know how to read a book?'

"I may have been one of the kids mocking that boy, but 30 years later, my view could not be more different. ..."


Friday, March 13, 2020

Rivals without a cause?

Jan K. Woike and Sebastian Hafenbrädl on how 'Relative performance feedback creates destructive competition despite aligned incentives', in the Journal of Behavioural decision Making


"Whether people compete or cooperate with each other has consequences for their own performance and that of organizations. To explain why people compete or cooperate, previous research has focused on two main factors: situational outcome structures and personality types. Here, we propose that—above and beyond these two factors—situational cues, such as the format in which people receive feedback, strongly affect whether they act competitively, cooperatively, or individualistically. Results of a laboratory experiment support our theorizing: After receiving ranking feedback, both students and experienced managers treated group situations with cooperative outcome structures as competitive and were in consequence willing to forgo guaranteed financial gains to pursue a—financially irrelevant—better rank. Conversely, in dilemma situations, feedback based on the joint group outcome led to more cooperation than ranking feedback. Our study contributes to research on competition, cooperation, interdependence theory, forced ranking, and the design of information environments."
(via The Economist)


Monday, March 9, 2020

Saturday, March 7, 2020

What Is Basic about English?

The latest issues of the Center’s weekly, The Great Ideas Online (Nos. 1029-1031), discussed this paper by Mortimer Adler read at a general session of the National Council of Teachers of English in November, 1940, and later published in College English, Volume 2, April, 1941, pp. 653-675.

TGIO is emailed to members.

At the Center’s website you’ll find information on how to Become a Member.

#education #language

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Philosophy of Realism

From the Editorial Introduction to Reality: A Journal for Philosophical Discourse, Volume I, Number I,
"The goal of our journal is simple: to reinvigorate an intelligent discussion about realism as a philosophical approach. By a realist approach, we mean not simply as pertains to theories of knowledge, but rather a kind of thinking that perfuses itself throughout all philosophical inquiries: all questions of truth, of meaning and purpose, of good, of human action, the political, the physical and the metaphysical, of thought and thing, and anything else about which one might ask, “What does this mean?'"


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Leo Tolstoy’s art, ideas and lived life

'Bringing him down', review by Caryl Emerson of Lives and Deaths: Essential stories, by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Boris Dralyuk, Leo Tolstoy: A very short introduction, by Liza Knapp, and Leo Tolstoy, by Andrei Zorin, at The Times Literary Supplement

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Aquinas Leadership International Update - February 2020

Dr. Peter A. Redpath writes, 

"As usual, I write to update you about some developments related to the Aquinas Leadership International (ALI) group, our affiliate organizations, and other groups interested in ALI’s work. If you would like me to include some information in a future monthly update, email me that request at my email address immediately below." 


Congratulations to our colleague, Juan Pablo Stegmann, for recently passing his defense Summa cum laude at the Universidad Abat Oliba CEU (Barcelona, Spain) of his nearly 900-page dissertation (containing decades-long research that includes about 500 authors and 1600 references). For more information, go to:

It contains a summary of this personal and academic investigation of how society would change if we had more spirituality. Starting with discussions about how we make decisions, relying on strategic management and political economy, and escalates to philosophy, and spirituality.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Aesthetic certainty

'A full exploration of Eliot’s critical opinions'

Lachlan Mackinnon reviews The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot: The critical edition, Ronald Schuchard, general editor, at The Times Literary Supplement


Christian Science?

'If Aristotle is to have "revenge" in metaphysics it will come from a re-characterization that illustrates the relevance of his thought to modern humanity.'

Review by J. Eric Wise of Aristotle's Revenge: The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science, by Edward Feser Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2019

#metaphysics #science

Friday, February 14, 2020

Before You Read a Book

The latest issue of the Center’s weekly, The Great Ideas Online (No. 1028), discussed this article by Mortimer Adler, originally published in Good Housekeeping, December 1940, pp. 32-33.

TGIO is emailed to members.

At the Center’s website you’ll find information on how to Become a Member.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Finding the way

'The disputed concept of sharia', review by Malise Ruthven of Understanding Sharia: Islamic law in a globalised world, by Raficq S. Abdulla and Mohamed Keshavjee, and What Is the Sharia? by Baudouin Dupret, at The Times Literary Supplement, January 10, 2020

#law #religion

Friday, February 7, 2020

The Great Books

The latest issues of the Center’s weekly, The Great Ideas Online (Nos. 1026 and 1027), discussed Mortimer Adler's article on reading such books, published in The University of Chicago Magazine in February and March 1940.

TGIO is emailed to members.

At the Center’s website you’ll find information on how to Become a Member.

#democracy #education

Sunday, February 2, 2020

On the Kulturkampf

A "15 Minute Insights" audio presentation by Brian Kemple.

"The term 'culture war' was adapted from the German Kulturkampf: translated more literally, the cultural struggle.

"Does it make a difference if we speak of a culture war as opposed to a cultural struggle? I believe so. I believe that war is an inapt metaphor for speaking about culture--and that engaging in a war over culture results in victories not worth winning."

#art #dialectic #history #progress

Friday, January 31, 2020

Aquinas Leadership International Update - January 2020

Dr. Peter Redpath writes to update about some developments related to the Aquinas Leadership International (ALI) group, our affiliate organizations, and other groups interested in ALI’s work, including the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas.


Congratulations to our colleague, Des FitzGerald, who celebrated his 96th birthday on 18 January 2020! if you would like to send Des a personal birthday greeting, email it to me at: with your email address. I will forward both to him.
  • With great sadness, we moun the passing of Czeslaw Jaroszyński, Father of our colleague Piotr Jaroszyński. Please remember him in your prayers.
  • The Philosophy Department of the University of Notre Dame is pleased to announce: 
Inauguration of the History of Philosophy Forum for the purpose of facilitating research and collaboration among scholars working in the history of philosophy. To that end, the History of Philosophy Forum (1) organizes an annual colloquium examining a philosophical theme across different periods in the history of philosophy, (2) hosts a Distinguished International Visitor each year, and (3) operates a “Small Grants Program,” supporting international scholars with research projects in the history of philosophy that could benefit from a short stay at the University of Notre Dame.
The 2020-2021 Call for Applications is now open for our Small Grants Program!  The program is open to all scholars working in the history of philosophy with primary affiliation at an institution outside the US. A poster is attached.  More information about the program, as well as a link to submit the online application, can be found at Submission deadline is February 7th, 2020.  
More information about the History of Philosophy Forum and its activities, including the inaugural colloquium on the theme “Philosophy Throughout Its History” (April 2021) can be found at our website:
Also, contact:
Therese Scarpelli Cory
Director, History of Philosophy Forum
John and Jean Oesterle Associate Professor of Thomistic Studies
Philosophy Department
University of Notre Dame.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The revolution lives

'What the Bolsheviks learned from the French'

Daniel Beer reviewed The French Revolutionary Tradition in Russian and Soviet Politics, Political Thought, and Culture, by Jay Bergman, at The Times Literary Supplement.

"As Jay Bergman emphasizes, Marx himself had venerated the French Revolution for the same reason Edmund Burke reviled it: radicals had brought an entire country to reject the 'accumulated experiences, traditions and patterns of life that had existed for centuries'. But Marx also left Russian revolutionaries 'a diverse menu to choose from when it behoved them to invoke the French Revolution'. The more ideologically orthodox [Bolsheviks] stressed the iron laws of history and the dangers of political overreach before the conditions for successful revolutions had been fulfilled; others, of a more impatient disposition, insisted on the power of humans to force the pace of change."


Friday, January 24, 2020

Hierarchy (redux)

The latest issue of the Center’s weekly, The Great Ideas Online (No. 1025), discussed this article by Mortimer Adler published in Catholic Digest (October 1940), Vol. 4, p. 39, condensed from his commencement address at College of St. Thomas in St. Paul Minnesota, see TGIO 1024.

TGIO is emailed to members.

At the Center’s website you’ll find information on how to Become a Member.

#being #nature #relation

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Twilight of the Gods

'If we avoid mining his plays for punditry and sloganeering, the Bard may help us find answers to our own questions.'

Review by Spencer Klavan of Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, edited by Jan H. Blits, and Antony & Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare, edited by Jan H. Blits, at the Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2019


Friday, January 17, 2020


The latest issue of the Center’s weekly, The Great Ideas Online (No. 1024), discussed this commencement address delivered by Mortimer Adler in 1940 at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul Minnesota.

TGIO is emailed to members.

At the Center’s website you’ll find information on how to Become a Member.

#being #nature #relation

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

'How to Build a Friendly Robot--A Philosophical Novel' by Bob Kohn

Bob Kohn, a fellow at the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas, has just published a book dedicated to Mortimer J. Adler: How to Build a Friendly Robot—A Philosophical Novel

An award-winning scholar and technology lawyer, Mr. Kohn presents a realistic courtroom drama about how philosophy, not technology, will keep humanity safe from the rise of intelligent machines. In 1994, Mortimer J. Adler awarded Mr. Kohn the top prize for his solution to a philosophical problem that lies at the heart of this unique philosophical novel.

The year is 2032. Audrey Paris, former federal prosecutor and now lead attorney for the A.I. engineering team at the recently-merged Google-IBM, is thrust to the forefront of the most provocative legal battle since the Scopes monkey trial. 

One of the company's humanoids is charged with murder in the second degree. Audrey moves to dismiss the case on the grounds that machines are not legal persons. The Department of Justice disagrees. Watson-5, the brains behind the humanoid, has passed the Turing Test and must be held accountable for violations of the law.

But Federal Judge Harold S. Gordon is not buying either argument and turns to Robbie, the humanoid defendant at the center of the trial. The two lock horns during a short, but ambitious journey over difficult intellectual terrain. But the exchange doesn't end well, and Audrey and the Judge find themselves in a race, not only for their own lives, but for the rest of humanity.

“The great ideas addressed by the novel were inspired by Dr. Adler’s Intellect: Mind Over Matter (1990) and his other writings on artificial intelligence,” said Mr. Kohn.  “And its presentation—the form of a courtroom drama—was inspired by Dr. Adler’s Dialectic of Morals (1941).” 

How to Build a Friendly Robot explores the depths of what leading scientists, like the late Stephen Hawking, have warned is the inevitable conflict between Man and Machine. Should a machine greatly surpass human beings in intelligence, what could go wrong? Are we doomed? Or can we co-exist with these super-intelligent devices? 

Technologists, like Ray Kurzweil and Stuart Russell, are optimistic: Safety lies in aligning machine intelligence with human values. But what human values? And how will the machines learn them? These questions are addressed by opposing forces in a vigorous debate that spans the domains of mathematics, technology, and philosophy. The setting is fictitious, a federal courtroom, but the ideas are timeless, and the stakes are gravely real.

They say that philosophy can bake no bread. This book sets out to prove them wrong.

Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher and editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica, once posed a philosophical problem: Explain the inheritance, or genetic transmission, of superior intellectual ability in some persons without asserting that the human intellect itself is material. Judging an essay contest for the best solution to the problem, Dr. Adler awarded the top prize to Bob Kohn, writing: 

"[Mr. Kohn] seemed to know best . . . where the mystery begins, what we have to concede to it, and what (by virtue of hereditary mechanisms) we do not. . . . [Kohn] showed “a gratifying familiarity with the Great Books of the Western World.” 
— Mortimer J. Adler (The Great Ideas Today, 1994).

How to Build A Friendly Robot is available in Kindle and Paperback at Amazon.

#man #mind

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Case for Classical Education

"The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with contributing editor Mark Bauerlein. On this episode, Sheila Byrd Carmichael discusses the state of K-12 education in the United States and the growth of the classical school movement."
Podcast by Mark Bauerlein at First Things


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Saving Persuasion

'America's rhetoric problem reflects a wider cultural malaise.'

Review by Carnes Lord of Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric, translated by Robert C. Bartlett, at the Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2019


Friday, January 3, 2020

Education and Democracy

The latest issue of the Center’s weekly, The Great Ideas Online (No. 1023), discussed this essay by Mortimer Adler.

TGIO is emailed to members.

At the Center’s website you’ll find information on how to Become a Member.

#democracy #education

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Aquinas Leadership International Update - December 2019

Peter Redpath provides this latest muontly update.

  •  With great sadness, we moun immediately below the passing of the great Fr. Leo Elders, SVD:
In remembrance of Father Leo Elders SVD 1926 - 2019, we report him saying, “With deeply felt gratitude to God I leave this life: gratitude towards my loving and deeply religious parents, my education, the formation at the gymnasium in Rolduc, the acceptance in the SVD, the science oriented mission congregation with devotion to the Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit. In the SVD I have learnt to appreciate and develop my great love for St. Thomas. My priestly ordination was postponed because of sickness and I could study ancient philosophy etc. in Utrecht. After my bachelor examination I was appointed for the seminary in Granby, Canada; after 5 years an appointment for Japan and from there, after 12 years an appointment for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. Finally after 5 years in Rome, I was sent to the Netherlands to assist bishop Jo Gijsen in his seminary. I did this for 40 years”.
Father Leo Elders spent the last years of his life in Park Zuiderhout, Teteringen, where he died on October 14, 2019. He is buried at the cemetery of Mission house H. Franciscus Xaverius in Teteringen We appreciate your participation.
The family Elders and Confreres SVD.
  • At the end of December go to the link immediately below to download the Aquinas School of Leadership School of Economics Studia Gilsoniana Special Series Inaugural Volume: A Return to Pre-Modern Principles of Economic Science

Friday, December 20, 2019

Pride and paragon

Virginia Woolf on the life and work of George Eliot, at The Times Literary Supplement, originally published in its November 20, 1919 issue.