Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Remembering Robert Solomon

Robert C. Solomon, 1942-2006

I was saddened and shocked to get an email from Texas on Sunday, saying that American philosopher Robert Solomon had died suddenly last week. It happened on Jan. 2, as I later found out. He died in Switzerland, while on his way to Italy, which is fitting given his lifelong interest in Nietzsche. You can find a nice obit with a picture here.

Bob has always been one of my favorite people in American philosophy, always doing interesting, divergent, ahead-of-the-herd kinds of things. Whenever he gave a paper at convention I was attending, I would go to his paper, and he seemed to do the same for me. It was always a pleasure and an honor to see his face in the audience. It always made me want to do a good job (and feel crummier if I didn’t!).

When I first heard of him, I think he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at UCLA, and had just edited an anthology of essays on Nietzsche. It’s one of the great anthologies of its kind – and still in print, I think! So I’ll always think of him as that youngster who did that interesting anthology, which might be one reason his death is such a shock.

Of course he went on to do many other things, including a pioneering, classic, and just plain fun to read book on the emotions that I have taught a number of times.

Way back in 1982 I brought him out to give some talks at the place I was teaching at the time, the University of Minnesota campus at a hole-in-the-prairie called Morris. For my business ethics students he did basically the same presentation he did for corporate executives, only this time for a lot less money. It was obvious why he was such a beloved teacher – he was a very engaging speaker, but in a no-bullshit way. It was clear one was dealing with a thinker, not an actor. He did not practice the usual, authoritarian (I talk, you listen and maybe ask questions) teaching method that has dominated university teaching for a thousand years. He got the students to talk. And, I can tell you, in rural Minnesota, that ain’t easy.

It’s a heardache to think I’ll never see him at the podium or in the audience again.

No comments: