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Mortimer J. Adler Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

The adult education holdings are collectively known as the
Alexander N. Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults.

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Adler, Mortimer Jerome,1902-2001.
Title: Mortimer J. Adler Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1937-1966
Quantity: 10 linear ft.
Abstract: Papers of the American philosopher, educator, author. Correspondence (1937-1966); manuscript articles, books, lectures, and notes (1938-1963); correspondence, notes, and manuscript drafts and revisions relating to The Great Ideas: a syntopicon of Great books of the Western world; scrapbooks; and printed material, including articles and clippings about Adler and reviews of his books.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Mortimer J. Adler was born in New York City in 1902. He attended public schools in the city but dropped out at age 14 to work as a copy boy for the New York Sun. Eventually he returned to school and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1929. He taught at Columbia from 1923 until 1930 when, at the invitation of Robert Hutchins, he went to the University of Chicago. There he taught philosophy and helped to establish the great books program as well as the Great Books Foundation. Adler left his post as professor in 1952 to found and direct the Institute for Philosophical Research. The Institute went on to sponsor many publications, its first major one being The Idea of Freedom.

Adler introduced the Paideia Proposal which resulted in his founding the Paideia Program, a grade-school curriculum centered around guided reading and discussion of challenging works at all grade levels, and with Max Weismann he founded The Center for the Study of The Great Ideas.

As associate editor of Encyclopedia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World and co-editor of Great Ideas Today, Adler contributed over one hundred essays on the great ideas of Western Civilization. He authored many philosophical books, beginning with Dialectic in 1927 and including Art and Prudence, St. Thomas and the Gentiles, What Man Has Made of Man, a best seller called How To Read a Book, and The Conditions of Philosophy. He lectured extensively on the problems and questions of philosophy throughout his career.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Mortimer J. Adler Papers include correspondence-subject files, reference materials, manuscripts, reviews, and published materials.

Correspondence-subject files (1½ boxes, 1937-1966) includes incoming and outgoing letters. Reference materials (2 boxes) contains Adler's photocopies of reference material, articles and book chapters on various philosophical problems. Adler's inventory of these materials is included at the beginning of the series. The materials are largely undated. Manuscripts (11 boxes, 1938-1963) contains articles, books, lectures, notes, manuscripts of others, proceedings, scrapbooks and speeches. Reviews (½ box, 1937-1938, 1965-1966) consists of critiques and comments on Adler's work and includes articles and newspaper clippings. Published materials (1 box, 1937-1966) includes articles about Adler, articles by others, books, newspaper clippings about Adler, and a press release about Adler.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence-subject files is arranged by subject and author (as Adler had arranged them), and are filed in alphabetical order. Reference materials are arranged in the order in which Adler had kept them; his inventory of these materials has been placed at the beginning of the series.

Manuscripts materials are first arranged alphabetically by type. The articles are further arranged by subject. The books are arranged alphabetically by title; where necessary the books are further arranged in sequence by draft revision. Lectures are arranged alphabetically by title or location of the lecture. The collection of notes is headed by "current random notes" and the remaining notes are filed alphabetically by title or subject. Miscellaneous seas are placed last. Speeches are further arranged alphabetically by location of the speech. Reviews are arranged alphabetically by the title of the work being reviewed. Published materials are arranged alphabetically by type; the books are further arranged alphabetically by title.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001 Archives.

Associated Titles

The Great ideas: a syntopicon of Great books of the Western world.


Authors, American.
Books and reading.
Civilization, Philosophy.
Civilization, Western.
Education, Humanistic.
Educators, United States.
Intellectuals, United States.
Philosophers, United States.
Philosophy, Modern.

Genres and Forms

Book reviews.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Manuscripts for publication.



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Mortimer J. Adler Papers
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Finding Aid Information

Created by: -
Date: Jan 1967
Revision history: 3 May 2007 - converted to EAD (MRC); 5 Sep 2007 - updated "Popper" (MRC)

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Correspondence-subject files
Box 1 Art and Prudence by Adler 1937-1938
Box 1 Athenium Publishers (re Conditions of Philosophy) 1964-1966
Box 1 Conditions of Philosophy by Adler 1965-1966
Box 1 Idea of Freedom by Adler Aug-Dec 1958, Jan-April, June, Nov 1959, 1960-1965 (2 folders)
Box 1 Longman's Green Publishers (mainly re What Man Has Made of Man) 1937-1938
Box 1 Problems for Thomists (re Herbert Ratner and his reviews of Adler's book) 1940
Box 1 "St. Thomas and the Gentiles" by Adler 1938-1939
Box 1 "Science vs. Philosophy" by Adler 1951-1952
Box 1 Simon and Schuster Publishers (mainly re Conditions of Philosophy) 1964
Box 1 "Solution to the Problem of Species," thoughts on and publication of 1940, 1941 (2 folders)
Box 2 University of Chicago lectures 1963-1964
Box 2 What Man Has Made of Man 1937-1938
Box 2 Wolff, H., Book Manuf. Co. (mainly re What Man Has Made of Man) 1937
Reference materials
Box 2 "Inventory of Xerox Folders"
Box 2 Perelman
Box 2 C.B. Daly
Box 2 Reichenbach
Box 2 Frank, Philip
Box 2 Toulmin, Stephen
Box 2 Fisk, Milton on Karl Popper
Box 2 Kaplan, Hawkins, Nicholl, Passmore, Copleston; "Texts on Existentialism"
Box 2 Jaspers
Box 2 Zarbeek, Farhang
Box 2 Ewing, A.C.
Box 2 Ryle
Box 2 Flew, Malcolm, Campbell, Popper, Nowell-Smith, Wisdom, Broad, Ayer, "Miscellaneous Periodical Stuff"
Box 2 Wisdom, John
Box 3 Ryle, Waismann, Copleston
Box 3 C.D. Broad, A.C. Ewing, M. Schlick
Box 3 Moore, G.E.
Box 3 Ayer, A.J.
Box 3 Hawkins, D.J.B., Nicholl, D.
Box 3 Copleston, F.
Box 3 Reid, T., Hamilton, W., Gilson
Box 3 White, A.
Box 3 Black, M., Ayer, A.J.
Box 3 Kaplan, A.
Box 3 Quine, Price, Broad, Ayer, Findlay, on Clarity Is Not Enough
Box 3 Maxwell, Wallace, MacKinnon, on "Particles"
Box 3 Popper, K.R.
Box 3 Popper, K.R.
Box 3 Warnock
Box 4 Urmson, J.O.
Box 4 Buchdehl, Murdock, Warnock on The Nature of Metaphysics
Box 4 Hanson, N.R.
Box 4 James, W.
Box 4 Toulmin, S.
Box 4 Ayer, Conant, Henle Maritan, Santayana
Box 5 Typescript copy of Herbert Ratner critique of Adler's work
Box 5 Typescript copy of Adler's reply to Ratner
Box 5 Typescript of "St. Thomas and the Gentiles" by Adler
Box 5 Art and Prudence I; original mss. 1937
Box 5 Art and Prudence II; original mss. 1937
The Conditions of Philosophy
Box 6 drafts, Chapters I-XVII, Set I (18 folders)
Box 6 drafts, entire bound, Set II
Box 7 drafts, Chapters I-XVII, Set III (18 folders)
Box 7 drafts, Chapters I-VI, Set IV (6 folders)
Box 8 drafts, Chapters VII-XVII, Set IV (11 folders)
Box 9 drafts, Chapters I-XII, Set V (13 folders)
Box 9 drafts, Chapters XII-XVII, Set V (6 folders)
Box 9 drafts, Chapters I-XVII, Set VI (18 folders)
Box 9 Table of Contents
Box 9 Preface
Box 10 Controversy and Freedom Book I
Box 10 The Controversy Concerning Human Freedom by Adler (Inst. for Philosophical Research)
Box 11 Dialectic
Box 11 Politics and Scholasticism by J. Maritain, with Adler Revision
Box 11 Problems for Thomists - The Problem of Species
Box 12 What Man Has Made of Man
"The Conditions of Philosophy"
Box 12 Lectures I-VI, orig. mss copy, Set I (6 folders)
Box 12 Lectures I-VI, Set II (6 folders)
Box 13 Lectures I-VI, Set III (6 folders)
Box 13 Bibliography
Box 13 entire bound
Box 13 "Philosophy of Aristotle," St. John's University 1938
Box 14 At St. John's College and elsewhere 1938-1939
Box 14 "Current Random Notes"
Box 14 "The Conditions of Philosophy" lectures
Box 14 "The Conditions of Philosophy" lectures
Box 14 The Conditions of Philosophy
Box 14 Philosophy Lectures, "Things to Read Carefully"
Box 14 Ratner, Herbert, Adler's reply to
Box 14 "Science vs. Philosophy"
Box 14 What Man Has Made of Man; notes on errors and corrections for
Box 14 Notes
Box 14 Notes
Manuscripts of others
Box 14 "On the Distinction Between Thing and Property"
Box 14 "A Forum on Freedoms": Inst. for Philosophical Research 1953
Box 15 Comments on "Document on Human Freedom"
Box 15 Comments on "Document on Human Freedom"
Box 15 DePaul Philosophical Symposium Keynote Address 1963
Box 15 "Knowledge and Opinion" (2 copies) 1957
Box 15 Philosophy Conference Dec 1962
Box 15 Art and Prudence 1937-1938, undated
Box 15 The Conditions of Philosophy 1965-1966, undated
Box 15 "St. Thomas and the Gentiles" 1938, undated
Box 15 What Man Has Made of Man 1937, undated
Published material
Box 16 Articles about
Box 16 Articles by others
Box 16 The Conditions of Philosophy by Adler
Box 16 Research on Freedom, Vol. I by Inst. for Philosophical Research (and Adler)
Box 16 Research on Freedom, Vol. II
Box 16 Newspaper clippings about
Box 16 Pamphlets by Adler, "Materials for Philosophy Talk"
Box 16 Press Release about

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