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
Member of the Alliance for Liberal Learning

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Secret Life of Time

It may seem slippery and maddeningly abstract, but it’s also deeply intimate, infusing our every word and gesture.'

Alan Burdick at The New Yorker


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Kant & The Human Subject

'Brian Morris compares the ways Kant’s question “What is the human being?” has been answered by philosophers and anthropologists' at Philosophy Now.

#man #philosophy #science

Friday, January 12, 2018

Whither nationalism?

'Nationalism is not fading away. But it is not clear where it is heading.' Essay at The Economist.
"Nationalism is an abiding legacy of the Enlightenment. It has embedded itself in global politics more completely and more successfully than any of the Enlightenment’s more celebrated legacies, including Marxism, classical liberalism and even industrial capitalism. It is not an aberration. It is here to stay. Putting aside the concerns of a cosmopolitan elite, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Like religion, nationalism is capable of bringing out the best in people as well as the worst. It can inspire them to bind together freely in pursuit of the common good. But it can also fill them with a terrifying, righteous certainty, breeding strife and injustice."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Metaphysics Test

Twenty required questions, one point for each correct answer, and eighteen optional questions, here.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

John Deely on 'How to Think about God' by Mortimer Adler

"Mortimer Adler came to the University of Dubuque sometime in the 1970s as part of a lecture tour on 'How To Think about God'. Subsequently he published a book on the subject in which the first part claimed to be based on Anselm and the second part (which someone failed to proofread) based on Aquinas. Overall the book was actually not all that great, but the point of the first part captured the situation exactly. If we are to think clearly about God, we must indeed think of God as existing actually and not merely in thought. But clear thinking on our part is not sufficient to prove, even in the unique case of God, that God actually exists. For that, appeal must be made to the nature of actual existence, whence, if at all, some proof or other might be derived.

"Descartes, as mentioned above, later would compare the situation to that of a triangle. Existence is to God as having three sides and three angles is to a triangle. As we cannot think of a triangle unless we think of it as having three sides and three angles, so we cannot think of God unless we think of God as actually existing. But this argument makes the point of Adler and Aquinas, not the one Descartes or Anselm before him hoped to make.

Four Ages of Understanding: The First Postmodern Survey of Philosophy from Ancient Times to the Turn of the Twenty-first Century (2001), by John Deely, p. 241

#being #god #MortimerAdler

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Literature as Counterculture

Allen Mendenhall interviews Robert P. Waxler. author of The Risk of Reading and most recently coauthor with Martha Pennington of Why Reading Books Still Matters, at The University Bookman.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Adler Goes From `How To Read` To `How To Learn`

John Blades on A Guidebook to Learning: For the Lifelong Pursuit of Wisdom (1986), by Mortimer J. Adler, and the author's writing process, at The Chicago Tribune. [link fixed -ed.]

"Having just published [book] No. 39, Adler seems to have refined the art of writing books to a mathematical science. As he explains his working method:

"'I go to Aspen every summer and write one in 14 or 15 days. I deliver it to the publisher on Sept. 1, and it comes out the next March.'

"The 84-year-old author/philosopher doesn`t want the process to sound too mechanical, however.

"'You have to understand,' he says, 'that I`ve been working on the book all year before I sit down to write it. I`ve got my notes organized in folders for each chapter, and the writing goes very quickly. It`s much the best way to write a book.'"

#education #MortimerAdler

Friday, December 22, 2017

Reading 'War and Peace'

Lucie Taylor interviewed Brian E. Denton at OUP Blog.
"Maybe you’ve read War and Peace; maybe you haven’t. Maybe you got part of the way through its 1,392 pages and lost the will to continue. (It happens to the best of us!) If you’re in one of the latter two camps, Brian E. Denton is here to change your mind. A freelance writer based in Queens, New York, Brian has read War and Peace seven times already and has no plans to stop there. I talked to Brian to find out what makes War and Peace so special, and why you might want to join him in making reading the book a New Year’s Resolution for this year."

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Aquinas Leadership International December 2017 Update

Peter A. Redpath emailed about some developments related to the Aquinas Leadership International (ALI), affiliate organizations, and other groups interested in ALI’s work:

Why Intellectual Work Matters

This essay by Zena Hitz appears in the symposium 'Assault on Higher Education: Reports from the Front,' in the Summer 2017 issue of Modern Age.

"It was not long ago widely taken for granted that intellectual activity benefited ordinary people. A. G. Sertillanges's classic handbook The Intellectual Life (1921) offered to nonacademics with intellectual interests, people with day jobs, a wealth of practical advice for their intellectual work along with soaring rhetoric to inspire and encourage them. It seems he thought the benefit of intellectual work too obvious to dwell much upon. Sertillanges wrote as publishers brought forth a great flood of inexpensive classics for the ordinary reader. The early twentieth century had its powerful, hard-nosed advocates of practice over theory and its fantasy-driven evangelists of technology. Still, it seems evident that, in the age of Everyman’s Library and reading clubs at the Mechanics Institute, publishers, academics, and grassroots organizers built and defended forms of intellectual life that went deep to the bottom of things and reached out to the broadest of audiences. Even the activists of the early twentieth century did homage to the democracy of serious inquiry: Marxists went to the poorest areas and taught anyone who would listen intricacies of Hegel and Feuerbach that a modern-day professor would tremble to assign to undergraduates."

A scanned pdf version of Sertillanges's book is posted at Portal Conservador.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

How to write proofs: a quick guide

Eugenia Cheng, Department of Mathematics, University of Chicago, posted this at the University of Sheffield.

"Writing a good proof is not supposed to be something we can just sit down and do. It’s like writing a poem in a foreign language. ...

"Even when you know how to do it, writing a proof takes planning, effort and inspiration. ..."


Sunday, December 10, 2017

What Is "Blockchain" Anyway?

Peter Van Valkenburgh at the Foundation for Economic Education.

"All blockchain technologies should have three constituent parts: peer-to-peer networking, consensus mechanisms, and (yes) blockchains, A.K.A. hash-linked data structures."

Friday, December 8, 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

'Meeting of Minds': Cleopatra, Aquinas, Paine, & Teddy Roosevelt

"Join host Steve Allen as he welcomes Cleopatra, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Paine, and Theodore Roosevelt to a discussion of questions of enduring significance. Topics include the merits and evils of imperialism, the American Revolution, the possibility of nobility in war, certitude of religious doctrine, and the best form of government. Hear Cleopatra and Aquinas react to the first lines of the Declaration of Independence, Cleopatra defend the rule of divine emperors, and Aquinas comment on Paine’s argument for equality."
Video of Season 1, Episode 2, linked at The Imaginative Conservative.

#equality #government #religion #revolution #war

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Histomap: Visualizing the 4,000 Year History of Global Power

Nick Routley at Visual Capitalist.

"Today’s infographic, created all the way back in 1931 by a man named John B. Sparks, maps the ebb and flow of global power going all the way back to 2,000 B.C. on one coherent timeline."


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mortimer Adler, A Socratic Gadfly

Milton Birnbaum reconsiders Reforming Education: The Opening of the American Mind (1990), by Mortimer J. Adler, at The Imaginative Conservative.

#education #MortimerAdler

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Education in the Digital Age

Brian Kemple at Semiotic Thomist.

"Here, I want to take a look at the technological factors which have a pervasive influence in our environments. I am, again, working off the thought of Marshall McLuhan, within the framework of a Thomistic psychology, and with a semiotic perspective (that is, such that mediation between any two or more things occurs by virtue of a sign, the being of which is a triadic relation comprising object, interpretant, and sign-vehicle). More specifically, I am concerned with the 'electric' environment–light, television, telephone, and anything which fosters instantaneous communication (including some capacties provided by the internet)–and the 'digital' environment–which, we might say, comprises the coded structuring of discretely categorized knowledge made available to us through computers, smart phones, and the internet."

#education #sign

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Aquinas Leadership International November 2017 Update - Supplement

From Peter A. Redpath:

"I write to update you about some developments related to the Aquinas Leadership International (ALI), affiliate organizations, and other groups interested in ALI’s work. ...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

‘Festina Lente’ means make haste slowly

Alex Horgen of Pacelli Catholic Schools reports on their consideration of Mortimer Adler’s Paideia Program for improved class discussion, at the Austin Daily Herald.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Image of America and the Youth of the World

"Town Meeting of the World - Senator Robert Kennedy (D-NY) and Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA) respond to questions via satellite from a group of international students in London at the BBC. The topic is “The Image of America and the Youth of the World” but many of the questions concerned U.S. policy in Vietnam. This aired on CBS on May 15, 1967."
at YouTube

#democracy #war

Update: Transcript at Free Republic

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Brian Kemple at Semiotic Thomist

"But beyond the ratios between the senses, I think it is arguable that new technological media alters also the ratio between the senses and the intellect. It seems little coincidence to me that we live in an age bereft of thought and inundated of sense stimulation–and not just any stimulation, but a constantly changing, updated stimulation; the ad men, so to speak, are always trying to make us tingle in new and exciting ways, to keep our curiosity on their products and services."

#mind #sense

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Human Nature and the Character of Economic Science

Israel M. Kirzner on 'The Historical Background of the Misesian Perspective' at The Harvard Review of Philophy.

#man #wealth

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Aquinas Leadership International November 2017 Update

[From Peter A. Redpath]

I write to update you about some developments related to the Aquinas Leadership International (ALI), affiliate organizations, and other groups interested in ALI’s work.

● Fifth Annual Aquinas Leadership International World Congress

The dates of 20 to 22 July 2018 have been reserved for the 5th annual Aquinas Leadership International Conference at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, Long Island, NY, USA. If you have a Congress topic that you think might be good for this annual meeting, please send the information to the Congress Chair, Peter Redpath at:

● The Aquinas School of Leadership (ASL) Sends:

– Much thanks to those students who have enrolled in ASL’s recently-formed “Center for Leadership Coaching” January 2018 international, online, course on “The Organizational Genius of St. Thomas Aquinas.” This class with kick off the first event in ASL’s

Center for Leadership-Coaching in Thomistic Organizational and Moral Psychology (ASLCLC)

For further information about this Center, its leadership-coaching work, and/or this course, email Dr. Peter Redpath at:

A Case for the Quaint: The Great Ideas Program

Robert M. Woods at The Imaginative Conservative [link fixed -ed.]

#education #GreatIdeasProgram #RobertHutchins

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The nature of Philosophy

Roger Scruton and Timothy Williamson debate, with an introduction by Tim Crane, Philosophy Editor, at The Times Literary Supplement.