A Philosophy of Life: Powerful Ideas from Felix Adler

The following is my attempt to tease out key ideas from Felix Adler that can find wide consensus in today’s Ethical movement. Adler, as a human being who founded this Ethical movement, was fallible, and not all his ideas are relevant today. Others may find other ideas from Adler also important; my hope here is that this list starts conversation rather than is taken as any sort of “ultimate answers.”

– Jone Johnson Lewis, 2002-2009

  1. A philosophy of life grows out of life experience.
  2. A deep longing is the root of a philosophy of life.
  3. We attribute infinite, inherent worth to every person.
  4. Individuals are infinitely interconnected, interrelated and interdependent.
  5. Actions of individuals make a difference beyond that individual.
  6. We call a life “ethical” when it is lived in relationships which bring out the unique best in others and ourselves.
  7. Living an ethical life requires life-long and multi-generational education and cultivation.
  8. In all relationships and groups, we attend to both outward purposes of coming together and the relationships among us.
  9. In all groups and communities, we work to create “spiritual democracy” — where every individual participates and matters.
  10. Individual ethical development and the development of “spiritual democracy” depend on each other.
  11. Diversity and pluralism are essential to ethical development and “spiritual democracy.”
  12. In ethical living, failure and frustration are inevitable and can be transformed to ethical learning.
  13. As individuals and community, we are also interconnected to and interdependent with the rest of the natural world.
  14. Ethical living requires active engagement in building a more humane world.
  15. A priority in our ethical work is with those whose uniqueness and worth are now least recognized or actualized.
  16. Individual and community commitment to ethical development can be described as religious or a religion.
  17. Our community expression of a philosophy of life — a religion — is shaped by the philosophy’s ideas and goals.

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