Sunday, July 12, 2009

And Yet Another Never too Late

This one is Mortimer Adler, the influential writer on philosophy and education. He converted to Roman Catholicism two years before his death.

Mortimer J. (Jerome) Adler was born in New York City, the son of an immigrant jewelry salesman. He dropped out of school at 14 years of age and went to work as a secretary and copy boy at the New York Sun, hoping to become a journalist. After a year, he took night classes at Columbia University to improve his writing.

It was there that he became interested, after reading the autobiography of the great English philosopher John Stuart Mill, in the great philosophers and thinkers of Western civilization. Adler was driven to continue his reading after learning that Mill had read Plato when he was only five years old, while he had not read him at all. A book by Plato was lent to him by a neighbor and Adler became hooked. He then decided to study philosophy at Columbia University, where he received a scholarship. But he was so focused on philosophy that he failed to complete the requisite physical education course to earn his bachelor's degree.

Nevertheless, his command of the classics became so great that Columbia University awarded him a doctorate in philosophy a few years after he began teaching there.

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