Thursday, March 31, 2011

"...Elasticity, Distinctness, Circumcision (see God)..."

Volume I: Angel, Animal, Aristocracy, Art, Astronomy, Beauty, Being, Cause, Chance, Change, Citizen, Constitution, Courage, Custom and Convention, Definition, Democracy, Desire, Dialectic, Duty, Education, Element, Emotion, Eternity, Evolution, Experience, Family, Fate, Form, God, Good and Evil, Government, Habit, Happiness, History, Honor, Hypothesis, Idea, Immortality, Induction, Infinity, Judgment, Justice, Knowledge, Labor, Language, Law, Liberty, Life and Death, Logic, and Love
Volume II: Man, Mathematics, Matter, Mechanics, Medicine, Memory and Imagination, Metaphysics, Mind, Monarchy, Nature, Necessity and Contingency, Oligarchy, One and Many, Opinion, Opposition, Philosophy, Physics, Pleasure and Pain, Poetry, Principle, Progress, Prophecy, Prudence, Punishment, Quality, Quantity, Reasoning, Relation, Religion, Revolution, Rhetoric, Same and Other, Science, Sense, Sign and Symbol, Sin, Slavery, Soul, Space, State, Temperance, Theology, Time, Truth, Tyranny, Universal and Particular, Virtue and Vice, War and Peace, Wealth, Will, Wisdom, and World
The 102 "Great Ideas" of Mortimer Adler's Syntopicon, index to the Great Books of the Western World set. This index, along with the whole Great Books project, received a fierce critique from Dwight MacDonald in The New Yorker:
[Footnote:] Inevitably, the choice was more than a little arbitrary: to the naked eye, such rejected ideas as Fact, Faith, Sex, Thought, Value, and Woman seem as "great" as some of those included. However, the Doctor has appended to his Syntopicon those sixteen hundred small ideas, running from A Priori to Zoology via such way stations as Gluttony (see Sin), Elasticity, Distinctness, Circumcision (see God), and Daydreaming (see Desire). This inventory relates each of these small ideas to the Great Ideas (or Great Idea) under which references pertinent to the small ideas can be found, and all one needs to find one's way around in the Syntopicon is some sort of idea, Great or small (plus, naturally, plenty of time and determination).
...we have a fantastically elaborate index whose fatal defect is just what Dr. Adler thinks is its chief virtue: its systematic all-inclusive- ness.... This approach is wrong theoretically because the only one of the authors who wrote with Dr. Adler's 2,987 topics in mind was Dr. Adler. And it is wrong practically because the reader's mental compartmentation doesn't correspond to Dr. Adler's, either.

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