Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Manfred S. Frings (1925-2008) -- Requiescat in pace

Manfred Frings, the world's leading Scheler scholar, is dead. Frings was the editor of Max Scheler's Collected Works (Gesammelte Werke), translated many of Scheler's works into English, and was singlehandedly responsible for introducing Scheler's phenomenology into the English-speaking world.

Born on 27 February 1925 in Cologne-Lindenthal, Germany, Frings was the third son of Gottfried and Maria Frings. He attended a Catholic elementary school, lived close to a Jewish community where he forged significant friendships shaping his later antipathy towards Nazism. Both his school and home were destroyed during the bombing of Cologne in WWII, and he remembered rescuing his mother from the ruins of their house. He was drafted into the German military near the end of the war, and was captured by American forces and sent to a POW camp near Rouen, France, where he made the first of many lifelong friendships with Americans.

Following the war, Frings attended the University of Cologne, where he studied philosophy, English and French. He earned his doctorate in philosophy in 1953. In 1958 his dream of emigrating to America was realized when he accepted an invitation to teach philosophy at the University of Detroit. In 1962 he accepted an appointment in philosophy at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. From 1966 to his retirement in 1992, he taught at DePaul University in Chicago. He subsequently continued teaching part-time at the University of New Mexico. At various points throughout his career, he served as visiting professor and lecturer at the Universities of Cologne, Freiburg, Oxford, and Sorbonne.

Frings initiated the annual International Heidegger Conference at DePaul in 1966. He was one of six scholars chosen by Martin Heidegger to be the original editors of Heidegger’s Collected Works (Gesamtausgabe). He edited Heidegger’s 1942-1944 lectures on Parmenides and Heraclitus (volumes 54 and 55 of the Gesamtausgabe). Since 1970, he served as editor of the Collected Works (Gesammelte Werke) of Max Scheler (1874-1928), a task completed with the publication of vol. 15 in 1997. He was President (then President Emeritus) of the international Max Scheler Society (Max-Scheler-Gesellschaft), as well as a founding father of the Max Scheler Society of North America.

The principal focus of Frings’s career was Scheler’s phenomenology of values, sociology of knowledge, ethics, political theory, and philosophy of time. Among Frings' major contributions are the recognition he brought to Scheler’s phenomenology as a credible alternative to Edmund Husserl’s, his clarification of the relationship between Scheler and Heidegger in his seminal Person und Dasein (1969), and his concept of absolute time in his LifeTime: Max Scheler’s Philosophy of Time (2003). He has published well over a hundred articles, and edited twenty-four books, including his notable The Mind of Max Scheler: The First Comprehensive Guide Based on the Complete Works (1997, 2nd ed. 2001). His publications have been translated into Chinese, French, Japanese, and German. His work was recognized in a special audience with Pope John Paul II, himself an accomplished Scheler scholar, and by Martin Heidegger in personal meetings in Freiburg.

Frings is survived by his wife and long-time companion, Karin.

Select Bibliography
  • Max Scheler: A Concise Introduction into the World of a Great Thinker (Pittsburgh, 1965; 2nd ed, Milwaukee, 1996).
  • Person und Dasein: Zur Frage der Ontologie des Wertseins (The Hague, 1969).
  • “Max Scheler: Rarely Seen Complexities of Phenomenology,” Phenomenology in Perspective, ed. F. J. Smith (The Hague, 1970).
  • Zur Phänomenologie der Lebensgemeinschaft: Ein Versuch mit Max Scheler (Meisenheim, 1971).
  • Philosophy of Prediction and Capitalism (Dordrecht, 1987).
    “Scheler, Max,” Encyclopédie Philosophique Universelle, III, Les Ouvres Philosophiques (Paris, 1992).
  • “The Background of Max Scheler’s 1927 Reading of Being and Time: A Critique of a Critique Through Ethics,” Philosophy Today 36 (1992): 99-113.
  • “Max Scheler,” Encyclopedia Americana (Danbury, Connecticut, 1994).
  • “Max Scheler,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed (1994).
  • “Max Scheler,” Dictionaire d’éthique et de philosophie morale (Paris, 1996).
  • “Max Scheler,” The Encyclopedia of Phenomenology (Dordrecht, 1997).
  • The Mind of Max Scheler: The First Comprehensive Guide Based on the Complete Works (Milwaukee, 1997).
Goodbye, dear friend. You carry away a whole world with you. Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


To critically deconstruct or not, that is the question
To sling discursive arrows at outrageous fortunes
Or to take arms against a sea of techno-capitalist powers
And by deconstructing end them?
Yet so foul and fair a day i have not seen
For is this a summons which i see before me
An unseasonal gift in my hand?
Come, let me hold thee
I have thee not, and yet i see thee still
Art thou not a fatal vision, a present absence?
A simulacrum of the mind?
A hyperreal calling
Proceeding from the heat-opressed brain?
Yet, the deafening silence of the calling announces
To critically deconstruct or not, is that the question?
Why, what care i?
Why should you?
Since there's much safety in numbers, in foul analysis
What need we fear?
Who knows it?
When none can call our power to account
Still tis so foul and fair a day i have not seen
For i must attend the true event
My haste is very great
I will be gone
For with the dark, i'll steal away
And all's well that ends well
Whatever the course
The postmodern end is renown
So post-haste, i must depart
For i am become quite old
And the inaudible and noiseless foot of time steals
Nay deconstructs us all, low or high, knave or saint
Thus farewell for now
This day so foul and fair
Alas this speech must meet its end
For speech is much ado about nothing
And foul words are but foul wind
and foul wind is but foul breath
Yet with this breath forget not the question
Of being or not being
Of the différance of identity
That "is"
Critical deconstruction

Arek Shak(espe(ar)e)ian

[Hat tip to Arek Shakarian. Reproduced by permission of the author, 2008.]

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The origins of totalitarian democracy

In book VI of The Republic, Plato offers a fascinating sketch of how, in his view, democracy may give birth to tyranny. The discussion is much too long to quote in its entirety here; but here are some choice excerpts:
"When a democratic city athirst for liberty gets worthless butlers presiding over its wine, and has drunk too deep of liberty's heady draught, then, I think, if the rulers are not very obliging and won't provide plenty of liberty, it calls them blackguards and oligarchs and chastises them."

"So they do," said he.

"Yes," I went on, "and any who obey the rulers they trample in the dust as willing slaves and not worth a jot; and rulers who are like subjects, and subjects who are like rulers, come in for the votes of thanks and the honors, public and private...."


"Then it is likely," said I, "that democracy is precisely the constitution out of which tyranny comes; from extreme liberty, it seems, comes a slavery most complete and most cruel."


" ' People' will be the name of the [largest] class; all who are handiworkers and outside politics, without much property of their own. This is the largest and most sovereign class in democracy, when it combines."

"So it is," he said, "but it does not often care to combine unless it can get a bit of the honey."

"Well, it does get a bit from time to time," I said, "depending on the ability of the presidents, in taking the property away from those who have it and distributing it among the people, to keep most of it themselves."

"Yes, it gets a share to that extent," he said.

"So those whom they plunder have to defend themselves, I suppose, by speaking before the people and taking action in what way they can."

"Of course."

"And so they are accused by the other party of plotting against the people ...."

"... So the common people will always put up for itself some special protector, whom it supports and magnifies?"

"One thing is clear then," I said, "that when a tyrant appears, he grows simply and solely from a protectorship as the root."

"That is quite clear."

"Then what is the beginning of this change from protector to tyrant? ..."

"...When the Protector of the People finds a very obedient mob ... when he hints at abolition of debts and partition of estates -- surely for such a one the necessity is ordained that he must either perish at the hands of his enemies, or become a tyrant, and be a wolf instead of a man?"

"Such must be his fate of necessity," said he.

"That is the man then," said I, "who comes to lead a party against those who possess property."

"... those who get so far always hit on the tyrant's notorious plea -- they beg the people to give them a bodyguard, in order that the people's champion may be kept safe for themselves."


"Well, then," I said, "at first, in the early days, he greets everyone he meets with a broad smile; says he is no tyrant, and promises all sorts of things in private and in public, frees them from their debts and parcels out the land to the people and to those about him, pretends to be gracious and friendly to all the world."

(Plato, Republic, VIII, 562c-566e)

Of related interest
J.L. Talmon, Origins of Totalitarian Democracy (W.W. Norton, 1970) -- a fascinating study based on an examination of Rousseau's Social Contract.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Von Baader now online

This will be a bit arcane for most of you, but a major influence on the Dutch Calvinist philosopher, Herman Dooyeweerd, was Franz Xaver von Baader (1765-1841), whose work is now available online, albeit in difficult archaic German. J. Glen Friesen just emailed me the news that Google Books has digitized all 16 volumes of the Collected Works of Franz Xavier von Baader, the link to which is available at Friesen's website, along with links to several articles translated into English by Friesen.

[Hat tip to J.G.F.]

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Theodore Plantinga - 1947-2008

I take note of the passing of the philosopher, Theodore Plantinga (not to be confused with Notre Dame's Reformed philosopher, Alvin Plantinga), not only because of his particular contributions to the field of Dilthey studies and historical philosophy from his perspective as a Reformed Christian, but because of his personal assistance to me in my days as a doctoral student in helping me formulate my dissertation topic in such a way that it brought together my interest then in the Dutch Reformed phenomenologist, Herman Dooyeweerd, with parallel strands in the German phenomenological tradition adjacent to that of Dietrich von Hildebrand and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) in Max Scheler and the critique he leveled against the classical ethical formalism of Immanuel Kant. The yield of this line of advice, years later, was my publication of Scheler's Critique Of Kant's Ethics, Continental Thought Series, V. 22 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1995).

I never got to know Plantinga well, although I did read several of his books and articles, through which I gained considerable appreciation for his perspective and depth of analysis.

Here, in part, is how his university memorial reads under News and Events, "In Memoriam Professor Theodore Plantinga" (Redeemer University, Ancaster, Ontario, July 5, 2008):
It is with deep sadness that Redeemer University College announces the death of Dr. Theodore Plantinga, Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department. Dr. Plantinga died peacefully at his home in Dundas on the evening of July 4, 2008 . Visitation will be held in St. James Anglican Church from 6:30 – 8:30 Tuesday evening (137 Melville, Dundas), and a memorial service will be held there on Wednesday at 1 pm.

Theo Plantinga was born in 1947 in Ee, Friesland , the Netherlands . His family emigrated to Canada when he was four, settling in Winnipeg , where he attended elementary and secondary schools. He went to university at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan , where he received a B.A. in philosophy in 1969. He subsequently completed a Masters degree, and a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Toronto (1975). His doctoral dissertation, published by the University of Toronto Press in 1980, was Historical Understanding in the Thought of Wilhelm Dilthey.

During the next two years, Dr. Plantinga held a full-time position as lecturer in philosophy at Bishops University in Lennoxville, Quebec. Subsequently, he was a translator and managing editor for Paideia Press in St. Catharines, Ontario. He was appointed Executive Director of College Development for the Ontario Christian College Association, founded to explore the possibility of starting a Reformed Christian liberal arts and science college in Ontario.
Plantinga spent the next quarter century as the chair of Redeemer's philosophy department during the institution's founding years. He also translated numerous books by Dutch authors into English, including volumes by the philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd. He also became managing editor of the Dooyeweerd Centre at Redeemer in 2005.

The memorial concludes with these words: "He had a lively wit, a vibrant faith, a ready laugh, a listening ear and a particular fondness for the eccentric. He will be greatly missed as a friend, colleague, teacher and mentor. 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.'"

[Hat tip to C.B.]

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The young Scheler

Mancuso Giuliana, Il Giovane Scheler (1899-1906) (Milano: Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto, 2008).
ISBN-13: 9788879163651
ISBN: 8879163655

Con la pubblicazione del Formalismusbuch e la proposta di un'etica materiale dei valori, Scheler si impose come esponente di punta della fenomenologia di impronta realistica. Tuttavia, egli aveva esordito sulla scena filosofica con una serie di scritti di impostazione neokantiana, e tale restò il suo quadro concettuale di riferimento almeno fino al 1906. Di questa fase giovanile ci si è occupati ben poco. Il neokantismo che informa la prima produzione scheleriana è rimasto una nozione vaga, non tematizzata in quanto tale. Il libro specifica questa nozione attraverso l'esame dei testi giovanili, dei loro più significativi debiti teorici e delle questioni teoriche in essi affrontate. Le risposte del giovane Scheler mostrano come il suo pensiero fosse radicato all'interno del paradigma inaugurato da Kant e sviluppato dal neocriticismo: un paradigma del quale egli accolse la strumentazione concettuale, pur problematizzandola, per lavorare dall'interno alle linee di tensione dell'impostazione trascendentale. L'analisi di due luoghi celebri della filosofia scheleriana della maturità coglie, infine, la presenza operativa di elementi teorici riconducibili al neokantismo giovanile.

Giuliana Mancuso (Carate Brianza, 1975) ha conseguito il titolo di Dottore di ricerca presso l'Università di Torino e attualmente è assegnista all'Università degli Studi di Milano. É autrice di traduzioni e saggi critici che hanno per oggetto la filosofia tedesca tra Ottocento e Novecento, con particolare attenzione al pensiero di Max Scheler, al neokantismo marburghese e alla fenomenologia.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Foreclosure of homes and philosophy departments

Homes are being foreclosed at a fearsome rate these days, and it begins to look as though academic departments and programs are a similarly endangered species. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the termination of the German Department at the University of Southern California, and on May 5, I noticed in The Chronicle that the University of Florida was terminating its doctoral program in Philosophy.

The university, confronting a substantial cutback in state appropriations, has announced that it will lay off 20 faculty members, among other steps, to reduce costs for FY2008-9. As part of this retrenchment, President Bernie Machen has also proposed reducing undergraduate enrollment and cutting back on research expenditures, as well as eliminating some degree programs.

I gather that other Florida universities are reacting similarly to dire state budgetary situations. Many states are experiencing exactly the same financial difficulties, and passing through their problems to public institutions of higher education.
Source: Stan Katz, "The Unity of Philosophy" (The Chronicle Review, May 14, 2008).

[Hat tip to E.F.]

Monday, April 28, 2008

The celebrated Saul Kripke never earned more than a B.A.

One of my good friends and readers of my blog wrote to me recently expressing his surprise that the world-class philosopher, Saul Kripke, was never educated beyond the undergraduate level. "Kripke decided to write and publish rather than take up graduate studies," he wrote. "What a guy!"

The Kripke personal story is indeed impressive and intriguing, as related by Charles McGrath in a New York Times article just after Kripke had turned 65 years old in November of 2005. The Graduate Center of the City University of New York convened a two-day conference on the occasion of his his birthday in celibration of the man and his work. "In many circles, Mr. Kripke, who in 2001 was awarded the Schock Prize, philosophy's equivalent of the Nobel, is thought to be the world's greatest living philosopher, perhaps the greatest since Wittgenstein," says McGrath -- except that Wittgenstein didn't do some of his most important work while still in high school.
Mr. Kripke, a rabbi's son, grew up in Omaha, and by all accounts was a true prodigy, so brilliant and precocious that the so-called prodigies of today are by comparison mere shadows flickering on the wall of our collective cave. In the fourth grade he discovered algebra, which he later said he could have invented on his own, and by the end of grammar school he had mastered geometry and calculus and taken up philosophy. While still a teenager he wrote a series of papers that eventually transformed the study of modal logic. One of them, or so the legend goes, earned a letter from the math department at Harvard, which hoped he would apply for a job until he wrote back and declined, explaining, "My mother said that I should finish high school and go to college first."

The college he eventually chose was Harvard. "I wish I could have skipped college," Mr. Kripke said in an interview. "I got to know some interesting people, but I can't say I learned anything. I probably would have learned it all anyway, just reading on my own."

While still a Harvard undergrad, Mr. Kripke started teaching post-graduates down the street at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and after getting his B.A. didn't bother to acquire an advanced degree. Who could teach him anything he didn't already know? Instead, he began teaching and publishing. His 1980 book "Naming and Necessity," based on work he began in high school, is among the most influential philosophy books of the last 50 years ....
Funny, how easy it is to forget. I remember working through parts of Naming and Necessity (1980) about twenty years ago, aware of its importance and significance as a major philosophical work. It's easy to assume that a work like that might have been written by a philosopher near the end of his career, or even by someone deceased for some time; but the fact is that Kripke was only 40 years old when he wrote it, and it was based on ideas he worked out when he was in high school, probably in the late 1950s. Since Kripke didn't waste any time on post-graduate schooling, dissertating and self-promoting, he was essentially able to complete what in effect the work of a spectacularly successful career by the time he was only 40, and he's been going strong for the 28 years since, with what appears to be as many years yet ahead of him. Setting aside the self-promotional shenanigans required of most graduate students in order to procure professional jobs, one is tempted to ask concerning the value of post-graduate education except as an inconvenient way of weeding out what the professional guild considers the candidates least likely to succeed. Yet one wonders how many Kripke's are forestalled by the prospect of having to endure six-years-to-a-decade of such nonsense before being allowed to settle down to the serious work of philosophical thinking.

[Hat tip to E.F.]

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Memories of Dietrich Von Hildebrand

by Ronda Chervin, Ph.D.
It was truly a miracle that I met Gogo (as all his friends called him). Here is how it happened.

I was brought up as a total atheist, though my background was culturally Jewish. I studied philosophy hoping to find truth but only found skepticism, relativism, and historicism. I was looking for love but only found fascinating, sinful, disappointing relationships. By the age of 20 I was in despair of ever finding love or truth.

One Saturday my mother, who never surfed the TV, not ever, turned on the set in the middle of the afternoon, and there was a program called the Catholic Hour with two philosophers on it: Dietrich Von Hildebrand and Alice Jourdain. "Ronda, come see, there are some philosophers on TV." To my amazement, these philosophers were talking as if truth, love, goodness and beauty were objective realities.

I wrote them a long letter describing my futile search and asked if they could help me. It turned out that Alice (Lily – shortly afterwards to become Gogo's second wife) lived but 2 blocks away from me on the West Side of New York city. Neither she nor I, nor Madeleine (to be Stebbins) who was her roommate will ever forget our first meeting. Somehow, even though I was an atheist, I knew that there was something extraordinary in that apartment. Never had anyone looked into my eyes with such compassion and insight as did Lily. Afterwards, I danced down the street thinking, "I have met a saint."

Impressed by my yearning for truth, Lily suggested that I make a visit to the classes of Dietrich Von Hildebrand at Fordham and if I was enthusiastic, why not transfer my Woodrow Wilson scholarship from Johns Hopkins graduate school to Fordham.

Stephen Schwarz escorted me to Fordham. Two things caught my attention. The first was that, unlike the professors at Johns Hopkins who seemed to me to be dessicated academics, Von Hildebrand and Balduin Schwarz were vibrant men, overflowing with joy. Secondly I noticed that they could refute skepticism, relativism and historicism in a few sentences.

I like to think that two of my favorite saints also had something to do with the miracle of my mother turning on the TV at that moment: St. Therese of Lisieux who, during her dark night, prayed so much for atheists, and St. Edith Stein – who, having been an atheistic philosophy student from a Jewish background herself, surely she would want me to meet her "cousin" philosopher, Von Hildebrand.

Of course, being such a thoroughgoing atheist who had been brought up to think that all religious people were stupid and weak, I didn't think that the wonderful traits of Von Hildebrand, Lily, and the Schwarzs: Balduin, Leni (a convert from an atheist Jewish background) and Stephen, their son, had anything to do with their religion. I just wanted to be with them.

Zealous Gogo, at the urging of Lily, quickly arranged for my scholarship to be transferred and within a month I was taking courses at Fordham.

Ecstasy is the only word to describe my reaction to each of Gogo's classes, as I realized that truth was real, and what glorious truths, such as proofs that moral values were absolute. Simultaneously I was lapping up the love the members of the lay community surrounding me with. Getting to know them took place at lunches at the Schwarz house, and on the D-train of the NY subway from the Manhattan to the Bronx and back again, for I was able to travel a whole hour each way with either Gogo or Balduin who were riding up to the classes I was taking and they were teaching.

The miraculous events that led me to become a Catholic a year after meeting Gogo and Lily are told in my autobiography En Route to Eternity. A large part came from reading the authors recommended by them such as Augustine, Newman, and Chesterton. The night before my baptism I was visiting the Schwarzs who would become my godparents. Gogo was there. On my way home, I grabbed his arm and asked, "But suppose it isn't true, after all?" I expected some insight into philosophy or psychology of religion, but he replied with the simplicity of a peasant, "but think of the miracles!"

I found the personality of Gogo overwhelmingly. That the same man could be so serious, so deep, but also so spontaneous and affectionate, delighted me. We used to attend the same daily Mass, walking from different directions. Always I would find him singing opera loudly along the way. I often thought of this as the Italian side of his personality whereas the philosophical side was more German.

These personality traits of Gogo made whatever he wanted to teach me not so much didactic as enticing. And this was not only in the realm of philosophy. My father was a lover of classical music who filled our early childhood with the sound of music every hour he was home. As a teenager I rebelled and listened only to popular tunes. By college I gradually grew to love classical music, but had very little sense of choral music. I will never forget sitting in a room next to Gogo who was playing a 78 recording of Mozart's Laudate Dominum. To make sure I understood the beauty of it, he grabbed my arm with his hand and emphasized each climax of the singing with an extra squeeze accompanied by his radiant smile.

Another memory from these early days of the friendship, which would last until the end of his life, is of his insistence that those of us who rode with him on the subway from Fordham back to Manhattan pray Compline out loud in Latin. It was for me such an exemplification of the later buzz-word "counter-cultural" but also of freedom of spirit. In later years I followed his lead by insisting that friends pray the rosary aloud with me in airports during long waits at the gate.

Gogo played a large role in my marriage to Martin Chervin, a man from an orthodox Jewish background who had become an atheist as a teen but who wanted to know Christ. When I got interested in Martin as a possible spouse, I was on the verge of becoming a Catholic. At the time, he was a divorced playboy. I was confused. I thought a good way of getting rid of him would be to introduce him to Gogo and Lily and the Schwarz family. Surely they would tell me to drop this dangerous friendship immediately. Instead they all loved him and encouraged us in what turned out to be a long chaste courtship and helped us get a dispensation from Martin's previous non-religious marriage. We went through a long process with the New York and Roman tribunals. Finally Gogo was instrumental in persuading a prominent Cardinal to intervene for a dispensation in favorem fide.

It seemed as if Martin would soon become a Catholic. A major influence on him was the reading of Transformation in Christ. He recognized the genius of Gogo's combination of consummate understanding of human nature with sublime faith.
Even more, my husband, who had the same kind of joie de vivre as Gogo, could only have understood a faith like Gogo's, which included rejoicing in the goods of the earth, as well as opening to the redemptive gifts. Before meeting Gogo he thought of Catholics as either tight Puritanical types or rebellious sinners. It took him many years to finally become a Catholic, because he detested the American post-Vatican II Mass. Shortly before Gogo's death he made a bargain with God that should Gogo survive longer, at a time when his life seemed almost at an end, he would take it as a sign to become a Catholic in spite of his dislike of the English Mass. Gogo was spared a short time longer and Martin did become a Catholic

Gogo also had an influence on the conversion of my atheist mother. She was horrified at my interest in Roman Catholicism, but the personality of Gogo opened her to investigating the faith for herself. He decided to meet her informally at our home for individual teaching sessions to overcome her formidable doubts. In a charming gesture, the first time he came he presented her with a huge bouquet of peonies.

A few less important but telling memories:

Before his conversion, Martin and I were once traveling in Europe and went out of our way to go to Florence to see Gogo and Lily. I was praying constantly that whatever Gogo said would be a turning point for Martin to becoming a Catholic. We had a lovely visit but mostly the conversation was humorous and anecdotal instead of deep. At the end I was alone for a few moments and told Gogo how sorry I was that no important points had come up. Immediately Gogo's humorous expression changed to great seriousness and he exclaimed "What a sin on my part to have talked so much thoughtlessly!" I was touched by his readiness to acknowledge a fault even when it was unintentional.

Summers included a yearly meeting of a lay community that most of the Von Hildebrand circle were part of. I occasionally came to these meetings in Bavaria. The Mass was celebrated in a small chapel with parts of the congregation on either side – men on one side and women on the other. It always delighted me to see that, even after many years of marriage, Gogo could not bear to be separated from Lily – so throughout the Mass he would turn his head and gaze upon her with love.

A memory that fits with the name of the book The Soul of a Lion took place when Gogo and Lily came to Loyola Marymount University where I was teaching in the early 70's. Gogo gave the first talk. During the break, Lily told me that I must sit next to him while she was speaking and be sure that he stayed calm because he could have a fatal heart attack at any moment. During the question period the wife of a colleague of mine challenged Lily on some point. Gogo took it as an insult and tried to leap up to seize the floor. I grabbed him to hold him down. He turned on me swiftly and remarked: "Ronda, you can't keep me down. I am not a lamb, I am a lion."

We all knew that Gogo had a bad heart. Once, toward the end of his life, I had a nightmare that he was falling down a staircase to his doom. After that, whenever I was with him and there were stairs I pushed myself ahead of him so that I might cushion a fall.

As a professor of philosophy I have taught Gogo's books for decades with great impact. Some of my philosophy majors such as Michael Healy and James Harold, now at Franciscan University of Steubenville, went on to graduate school to study his thought. I cannot teach his ideas, or those of Lily, my life long friend, without a sense of the presence of their minds and hearts and souls permeating my smaller personhood. What a legacy. Viva the Von Hildebrands!
[Ronda Chervin is presently an adjunct philosopher at Lenoir Rhyne College in North Carolina. For more information about her numerous books about Catholic living, as well as videos and audios, go to The present article is reproduced here by kind permission of the author.]

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Richard Rorty on Jacques Derrida having a bad day

In his memorial, "Richard Rorty (1931-2007): In Memoriam" (CrossCurrents, Fall, 2007), John D. Caputo (right, pictured with white-haired Derrida) writes:
Later on, I also took exception to what [Rorty, pictured left] said about Derrida, that Derrida was not just making fun of the great philosophers but he had an important philosophical project of his own. His response to that was equally gracious. Again, he did not contest what I said about Derrida but only mused that at those times when Derrida stopped making fun of philosophical theories and started developing positive philosophical theories of his own, Derrida was just having a bad day.
[Hat tip to Dr. P.B.]