A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Friedrich Solmsen: German and Anglo-Saxon Virtue

My first 2009-post is devoted to one of the last giants of the German tradition of classical humanism: Friedrich Solmsen (1905-1989). There is no particular anniversary occasion, but I just wish to salute the entrance of the New Year by recalling the work of a scholar who mediates between German and Anglo-Saxon virtue. I got to know Ulrich von Wilamowitz' and Werner Jaeger's student through his work on Plato (Plato's Theology, 1942) and Aristotle (Aristotle's System of the Physical World: A Comparison with His Predecessors, 1960). The second work offers exquisite hermeneutics of the Platonic and Aristotelian physics, keeping an extremely fine balance which we miss in latest research on the Platonic Chora or the Aristotelian Topos (an exemption being Benjamin Morison's monograph On Location, Oxford 2002): Without turning into a Plato's or Aristotle's partisan, Solmsen manages to highlight both similarities and differences between their "systems".
Having escaped from Nazism in Germany in the mid-thirties and after spending some time in England, the German scholar taught at Cornell University and became celebrated for his weighty contributions on Hesiod, Homer, and both Greek tragedy and philosophy (including Hellenistic philosophy). His vision and argument are still inspiring and his work provokes admiration due to his analytic and constructive abilities, his deep insight and sagacious hermeneutics.
A happy, creative and healthy New Year 2009!



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