The Conditions of Philosophy

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The Conditions of Philosophy: Its Checkered Past, Its Present Disorder, and Its Future Promise is a 1965 book by Mortimer Adler. The book is a reflexive account of philosophy's current status, and its future promise. Its main thesis is that philosophy can recover from its present state by meeting six conditions.

Adler recapitulated the main insights of this book in his later 1993 book, The Four Dimensions of Philosophy. He explains that in "The conditions of philosophy", he emphasized two dimensions of philosophy, which provide theoretical and practical knowledge. He added two new dimensions to these two, the understanding of ideas as objects of thought, and the understanding of the different disciplines of intellectual work (Adler 1993, xxvii).


Here is a summary of the six conditions (page 79-80)

"I have stipulated:

(i) that philosophy should be an autonomous branch of knowledge, in the form of testable, falsifiable doxa;
(ii) that philosophical theories or conclusions should be capable of being judged by a standard of truth, to which appeal can be made in adjudicating disagreements;
(iii) that philosophical inquiry should be conducted as a public entreprise;
(iv) that it should have questions of its own (on which its autonomy is based);
(v) that, among these, some should be first-order questions (about that which is and happens or about what men should do and seek); and
(vi) that none should be esoteric (out of touch with the world and the beliefs of ordinary men)."

Contents of the book[edit]

Part One - Proposals and promises

1 Introduction
2 The five conditions
3 Other views of philosophy
4 Presuppositions
5 Logical considerations

Part Two - Efforts at persuasion

6 A method of its own
7 The common experience of mankind
8 Common-sense knowledge
9 Tests of truth in philosophy
10 Philosophy as a public entreprise: agreement and progress
11 The use of philosophy: the "is-ought" test
12 Understanding the world: the "mixed question" test

Part Three - Applications and confirmations

13 Retrospect and prospect
14 The misfortunes of philosophy in Antiquity
15 The disorders of philosophy in the Middle Ages
16 The vicissitudes of philosophy in Modern Times
17 Philosophy's Future

See also[edit]


Adler, Mortimer J. 1993. The Four Dimensions of Philosophy. Macmillan USA.

External links[edit]