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America's most prolific philosopher and encyclopedist (Haves Without Have-Nots, 1991; Truth in Religion, 1990; etc.) tries to work out a moral philosophy for the modern age, largely based on Aristotle, but somehow loses his readership along the way. The real genius of Adler has always been his ability to state the obvious in the most startling manner imaginable: To several generations of students reared on skepticism or structuralism, his affirmations of objective reality and verifiable truth have come as revelations. The strength of his position lies not so much in its originality--for it is not original--as in its confidence, the chutzpah with which it flaunts those Thomistic and Aristotelian categories that most Western philosophers imagine to have been buried for good during the Enlightenment. Here, Adler attempts to apply the principles of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics to the contemporary world. The Aristotelian hierarchy is neatly laid out for us--the distinction between the summum bonum and totum bonum, the contrast between ends and means, the obligations that individuals and societies owe toward justice and love--but it is hard to see how Adler has refined Aristotle's position (apart from ``democratizing'' it) or how he has applied it in any way that would not have been suggested just as readily by a simple reading of Aristotle himself. Neither original nor profound, Adler's work here has the musty smell of leftover notes for an already published book. For those dismayed by modern philosophy, this could provide a nudge in another direction, but only insofar as it points to someone else. Read Aristotle instead. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
This book has three parts: a 16-page summary of how it came to be written and of its presuppositions and objectives; a 106-page essay on morality proposing that recognizing what ought to be desired enables all normal people to attain a good life, provided that luck does not prevent it; and two appendixes of about 70 pages of relevant material. Adler regards happiness, not as an experienceable state, but as a well-lived life that attains everything that is really good. Accordingly, during our lifetime, we should distinguish real from apparent goods and desire them appropriately, i.e., neither too much nor too little. After discussing what he believes are specific right and wrong desires, he criticizes other moral philosophers such as Plato, Hume, Mill, and Dewey. Adler intends the book for the lay reader. It is often simplistic and sometimes dogmatic, but its clear exposition and concrete examples should help the reader separate the good from the bad in it.
-Robert Hoffman, York Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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