Aristotle for Everybody

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Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy (ISBN 0-684-83823-0) is a book written by Mortimer J. Adler as an informal introduction to the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. It was originally published in 1978 and remains in print today.

Adler's overall thesis is that in contrast to Aristotle's teacher Plato, whose ideas may be considered more abstract and esoteric, Aristotle was a "common sense" philosopher whose depth and uniqueness of thought made his common sense "uncommon." While Adler criticizes Aristotle for believing in the inferiority of women and supporting slavery, he nonetheless asserts that Aristotle is the best introduction to philosophical thinking and a philosopher with insights that are still relevant and useful today. Adler acknowledges that Aristotle's own writings are difficult for a layperson, and so the author decided to create a more accessible introduction to Aristotle's thought.

After a brief introduction the book is separated into five parts, each part having several chapters on a particular aspect of Aristotle's philosophy. The first part is "Man the Philosophical Animal," in which Adler explains that according to Aristotle human beings are distinguished from all other animals by having the ability to ask philosophical questions. Adler also explains how Aristotle excelled at classification, and that identifying distinctive features of phenomena (what makes something uniquely itself and not something else) was a key characteristic of Aristotle's thought.

Adler then divides the middle three parts of the book according to Aristotle's classification of three activities of a human being: making, doing, and knowing. Adler titles these sections "Man the Maker," "Man the Doer," and "Man the Knower," respectively. "Man the Maker" focuses on Aristotle's views on excellence in craftsmanship (the ancient Greek concept of techne), "Man the Doer" on Aristotle's ethics and his concept of moral virtue (both personal and political), and "Man the Knower" on knowledge (epistemology) and logic.

The final part of the book is called "Difficult Philosophical Questions," and in it Adler tries to apply Aristotle's views to infinity, eternity, the immateriality of the mind, and the Gods (the Greeks believed in many gods). The book concludes with an epilogue listing the specific writings of Aristotle that Adler drew upon for his book so that interested readers can consult those works directly.

References[edit]

  • Adler, Mortimer J. "Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy." New York: Touchstone Books, 1997.