The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes

The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes

By (author) Mortimer J. Adler , Introduction by Deal Hudson


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In this classic work, Adler explores how man differs from all other things in the universe, bringing to bear both philosophical insight and informed scientific hypotheses concerning the biological and behavioral characteristics of mainkind. Rapid advances in science and technology and the abstract concepts of that influence on man and human value systems are lucidly outlined by Adler, as he touches on the effect of industrialization, and the clash of cultures and value systems brought about by increased communication between previously isolated groups of people. Among the other problems this study addresses are the scientific achievements in biology and physics which have raised fundamental questions about humanity's essential nature, especially the discoveries in the bilogical relatedness of all living things. Thrown into high relief is humanity's struggle to determine its unique status in the natual world and its value in the world it has created. Ultimately, Adler's work develops an approach to the separation between scientific and philosophical questions which stands as a model of thought on philosophical considerations of new scientific discoveries and its consequences for the human person.

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  • Paperback | 395 pages
  • 134.62 x 210.82 x 27.94mm | 408.23g
  • 01 Sep 1993
  • Fordham University Press
  • New York
  • English
  • 0823215350
  • 9780823215355
  • 1,216,921

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Author Information

Mortimer J. Adler was the director of the Institute for Philosophical Research in Chicago and a member of the board of editors of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

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Review quote

aAmassing information from biology, chemistry, paleontology, cybernetics, and psychology, [Adler] has contrived a dazzling exercise in scholarship and logic.a

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Review text

How do we view man? Is the difference between man and animals a difference of degree or a difference in kind? Are non-physical factors in our make-up our true distinguishing marks, producing the proverbial triumph of mind over matter? Or do we really belong to a determinist universe, running along the principle of phytogenetic continuity, and governed like animals, by our instincts? As the computer age progresses, what will happen to traditional beliefs once the so-called Turing machine, or the robot, reaches a state capable of producing propositional speech, i.e., the ability to carry on a conversation Just like you and me? In the most intriguing study since Koestler's The Act of Creation, Dr. Adler brings these science fiction debates and/or philosophic dilemmas into close intellectual range, referring to all sides of his "mixed" subject, from Plato and Descartes and Kant to the claims of theology and the contemporary pursuits of psychologists, anthropologists, and biologists. Only a mind as wide-ranging as Dr. Adler's could present so thoroughgoing and tight a survey, or relate the latest concerns of Lorenz, say, with those of Freud, or examine in so cogent a manner all the possibilities the future holds for proponents of the immaterialist or materialist hypotheses. Dr. Adler obviously favors the former, and his implied anti-behaviorist bias is the only blot on an otherwise scrupulous book. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Back cover copy

This book was first published in 1967. It dealt with what I recognized to be a mixed question that could not be satisfactorily answered by philosophical thought alone, or by the empirical sciences. Philosophy posed the question about the specific nature of man and the place of Homo sapiens in the order of nature. Do human beings differ from the higher mammals only in degree or in kind; and if in kind, is the difference radical or only superficial?

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