Sunday, February 11, 2024

Fortnightly Book, February 11

 The next fortnightly book is Mortimer J. Adler's Philosopher at Large, subtitled An Intellectual Autobiography 1902-1976, which was originally published in 1977. It details Adler's struggle with what he saw as one of the major problems of the age -- what is the kind of education that is genuinely appropriate to a democratic society? -- including his somewhat unusual schooling (he received a PhD despite never having received any lower degree, or even a high school diploma), his involvement in the development of the Great Books movement, his disputes  (both direct and indirect) with John Dewey, and the development of his Institutate of Philosophical Research.

One of the reasons why I picked this is (as sometimes happens with the fortnightly book) a matter of pure happenstance; I had been irritated, as I semi-regularly am, by a kerfuffle online about academic credentials, with the root of my irritation being, as I formulated it to myself, that a degree is not proof of being educated but of having made (one kind of) a recognizable start in being educated. Then I happened to pick up the book, open it to a page near the beginning, and read:

...Those who do not seek advanced degrees should be provided with informal educational facilities for the continued learning in which all adults should engage for a lifetime if they are to become educated men and women. No one can become an educated person in school, even in the best of schools or with the most complete schooling. Schooling is only the first phase in the process of becoming educated, not the termination of it. Of course, that is a truth which no schooolboy is ever likely to understand or acknowledge....

[Mortimer J. Adler, Philosopher at Large, Collier Books (New York: 1992) p. 10.]