Dr. Adler’s Briefing Room
These are brief remarks on various topics and responses to questions that Dr. Adler has been asked.
Dr. Mortimer J. Adler comments on…
Whatever properties or tendencies are present in all men without exception are species-specific, and by this criterion they are natural. Any property or tendency that is found in some men, but not in others, whether the number in whom it is found is small or large, cannot be species-specific. It is a product of nurture or at most an endowment of individual nature, but in no case an endowment of specific nature.
The human good, the good for man as man, is a whole life made good by the possession of all the real goods toward which the common human nature of each individual tends for the satisfaction of its inherent needs. Since real goods are goods we ought to seek, the ideal of a good life as constituted by the sum total of real goods functions normatively as the complete or ultimate goal toward which we ought to strive. It is not the summum bonum, not the highest good in an order of goods, but the totum bonum, the whole of goods. And the moral obligation that each man has to make a good life for himself — to achieve this totum bonum in his individual life — is not only a categorical ought; it is also one that is universally binding on all men in the same way.
A self-evident proposition is one in which the opposite is unthinkable. We cannot think that the whole is less than any one of its parts or that a part is greater than the whole to which it belongs. The proposition that the whole is greater than any of its parts is certainly instructive as well as being self-evidently true. There are not many proposition that are self-evidently true. Among self-evident truths, the most important is the law on contradiction: nothing can have an attribute and not have it at one and the same time.