Friday, May 14, 2010

Paul Hoffman

Yesterday, Paul Hoffman died of a heart attack. He was a great scholar and colleague. I will miss him terribly.

At a talk on Monday, John Fischer announced his own coming talk on why immortality might not be so bad, to be given Wednesday. Howie Wettstein said from the audience, "we should all live so long". We all heard it as a joke, of course. One of Paul's last acts as a philosopher was to argue during the question period after John's talk that he saw no impossibility whatsoever in the idea of enjoying continual bliss in a never-ending embodied life.

One of the wonderful things about Paul as a colleague was his immunity to groupthink, his ability to bring to discussion a different perspective and fresh set of considerations. I always enjoyed hearing what he had to say, especially when we disagreed. Paul's forthright independence of mind was also, I suppose, what made him such an interesting historian of philosophy.

5 comments:

Sean said...

My condolences, Eric. I didn't know him well, and am not even too sure whether I met him during my recent trip to Riverside. But he seems like he was a valued colleague, and my sympathies go out to his family and friends.

Sean Kelly

Roderick T. Long said...

Very sad. I have some reminiscences here.

Bernie said...

I got to know Paul in graduate school, and I liked and respected him. When he got his first job at Harvard (I think it was) he shipped his books via USPS, and they all ended up in a vast warehouse of lost mail in LA. I spend a few hours searching through bins, retrieving as many of Paul's books as I could for him, one by one. That's a trivial anecdote, but it means something to me. I'm saddened by his death, and sorry for the loss that those close to him must feel.

RFanselow said...

I am saddened to hear of Dr. Hoffman's death. I took three classes from him as an undergraduate at UCR. When I taught Aristotle this semester, I found myself re-using his examples. Other Hoffman students will recognize that this means that I talked quite a bit about blue cups. It is a sign that Dr. Hoffman was a great teacher that, five years later, I still think about the subjects that he taught using his examples.

Sam Page said...

I was shocked to hear of Paul’s sudden passing. Paul was one of my professor’s at UCR when I was in the PhD program. The word that comes to mind when I think of Paul is “integrity”. It’s been a few years since I last saw Paul, but he was in great physical condition, which is partly why I was shocked at the news. Paul will be missed.