Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

In Memoriam

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

In Memoriam

Article excerpt

PAUL WEISS (1901-2002)

Those of us who studied philosophy at Yale in the late forties, fifties, and early sixties were rarely privileged. Paul Weiss was the salt that gave that great department its savor. Hendel and Greene were patricians: sound, learned, decent, admirable. Schrader was solid, careful; Welles was hygienic; Fitch amiable and sweet, capable of restating any idea in symbolic logic. All were fine.

But it was the systematic, comprehensive Blanchard, the imaginative Northrop, and the brilliant dialectician, metaphysician, and ontologist Paul Weiss who gave the department its majesty. Paul was the Prometheus who delivered its fire; it was he who ignited the philosophical flame in our minds and fueled our imaginations. His interrogations and his flights of imaginative speculation, his at-homeness in the world of ideas made philosophy a part of our daily lives. In order to study philosophy with Paul, one had to philosophize. And Paul's dialectical powers gave credence to Plato's account of those powers exercised by Socrates himself.

Paul could be fierce in argument but was gentleness itself in his personal regard and concern for his students. My wife and I will never forget that he hired her to type one of his long manuscripts triple-spaced and paid her the going rate for double-spaced typing. When I later observed Paul typing at the rate of perhaps 150 words per minute without any errors, I knew he gave Kathryn that assignment not because he needed her help but because he knew that we, with little income and a newborn child, needed his.

Beginning with his great first book, Reality, Paul contributed to philosophy a corpus of original, systematic philosophy that will endure. …

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