Bob Solomon, Happy Warrior

I’ve been at the Central American Philosophical Association meeting these past two days. I gave a paper on public philosophy yesterday, a subject for another post. This afternoon I attended a memorial session for Robert Solomon, who died suddenly, in the Zurich airport, in January from a heart condition. Bob Solomon was on my dissertation committee, and he and his wife, Kathy Higgins, were teachers and then friends of mine.

The Central APA memorial session for Bob Solomon was a real tribute to this phenomenal philosopher, who defied the usual ways that philosophers are demarcated. His work resisted the demarcations of analytic or continental — he was clearly moved and motivated by continental philosophy but his subjects and style of writing were also amenable to analytic philosophy. But forget those ridiculous divisions. He broke ground in creating a new field, the philosophy of the emotions. He brought a new sensibility to business ethics. He was one of the very best commentators on Hegel’s philosophy, existential philosophy, and the history of philosophy. He wrote in a style that was conversational and intimate, never difficult or remote. He taught students and CEOs alike to think anew about how they wanted to live their lives.

The speakers at the meeting included Jesse Prinz, David Sherman, Joanna Ciulla, and Jenefer Robinson, who organized the session. The lot of them spoke eloquently about the range of his work. Jesse Prinz and Jenefer Robinson spoke to the way that Solomon built bridges and carved out the field of the philosphy of emotions. Joanna Ciulla spoke to his work (and her collaboration with him) in business and leadership ethics. David Sherman, my friend from graduate school, spoke about his existentialism and his friendship, and just about brought me to tears. And then Richard Schacht talked about their common interests in the likes of Hegel and Nietzsche and then he gave this wonderful synopsis of Bob, capturing some of Bob’s personae with 8 “i’s’ of Texas. Bob exemplified, he said, these i’s:

  • irreverance, in the sense that he was puckish and good-natured
  • integrity, that he would never suffer B.S.
  • informality, in that he wrote like he talked, without any pretenses
  • ingenuity or inventiveness, in his means of conveying his thinking
  • impatience, in that he was always wanting to get out what he was thinking and then move on to something new
  • independence, in that he didn’t care about what was fashionable or about adhering to any models
  • idiosyncratic, in that he was always true to himself (and others noted that he always encouraged his students to be true to their own vision); he was always peculiarly himself, in the way that we should also fully explore our own peculiarity
  • intuitiveness, in the sense that he could figure out what was really important to the figures that he wrote about and also figure out how to convey to his readers what was important about them

Bob Solomon was truly an educator, Richard Schacht and others all noted. Schacht also called him a “happy warrior” — a warrior in the battle (against consumerism, mindlessness, etc.) in understanding what we want to make of ourselves.

Good-bye, Bob, too damned soon.

UT’s memorial:

Daily Texan obit:

See Siva’s post with a paste of the Austin paper’s obit:

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.

1 comment

  1. hi, i’m also very much into philosophy. hope you don’t mind me linking you up.

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