185: Aristotle Made Easy by Mortimer Adler

by Gerard


185: Adler, Mortimer J. Aristotle For Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy. New York: Collier, 1978. 192 pp. ISBN 0-02-064111-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy, parapsychology and occultism, and psychology
  • 180: Ancient, Medieval, and Eastern Philosophy
  • 185: Aristotelian philosophy

Ancient Greek philosophy is no joke. From the early thinkers such as Thales of Miletus and Xenophanes of the Ionian school all the way through to the Neoplatonists of the Hellenistic period, there was no shortage of deep thinkers trying to parse the meaning of everything we see and understand. One of the more famous names of this group was the 4th century BC philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle was taught by Plato and went on to teach and advise Alexander the Great. Mortimer Adler’s Aristotle for Everybody is an attempt to distill a lifetime of high thought into a short book on one way to think about the universe.

Throughout this book, there is heavy emphasis on Aristotle’s use of classification–form vs thought, potentiality vs actuality, plants vs animals vs humans, etc. The impetus here is that once you can classify different types of things, be they living things or causes or intentions, then you can more properly think through them and how they fit into the whole of the universe. At the high end of all of Aristotle’s musing is a single question: How does one live the best life? From that question, infinite more arise: What is the purpose of life? What is a good life? What is good? This rabbit hole of questions means you have to parse through all the vagaries of existence to find the best outcome.

Even at a slim 200 pages, this text is still not an easy one. Adler does well to simplify Aristotle’s philosophy, but even he runs into the problem that our words don’t mean the same thing as Aristotle’s. Many of the chapters start with an outlining of the vocabulary to come so that the author and the reader are hopefully on the same metaphorical page. All in all, it did help me to get a little deeper into ancient philosophy and come out asking better questions in the end. A dense but worthwhile read.