While taking night classes at Columbia University, he became interested in philosophy through the works of John Stuart Mill. When he learned that Mill had read Plato, Adler studied the writings of Plato as well.
Adler eventually taught at Columbia University and was given an honorary doctorate. His first work, Dialetic was published in 1927. By 1930 Adler went to teach at the University of Chicago, but left shortly thereafter.
Other notable works by Adler included:
- The Higher Learning in America (1936)
- What Man Has Made of Man (1937)
- How to Read a Book (1940)
- How to Think about War and Peace (1943)
- The Common Sense of Politics (1971)
- Philosopher at Large (1977) - Autobiography
- Six Great Ideas (1981)
- The Paideia Program: An Educational Syllabus (1984)
- A Second Look in the Rearview Mirror: Further Autobiographical Reflections of a Philosopher at Large (1992)
In all Adler wrote 60 books.