José Benardete (1928-2016) (updated)


José Benardete, professor emeritus of philosophy at Syracuse University, has died.  The author of three books—the latest was Greatness of Soul: In Hume, Aristotle and Hobbes, As Shadowed by Milton’s Satan (Cambridge)—Professor Benardete was known for his work in metaphysics and, I am told, his dedication to a philosophical life. For years, numerous interesting and amusing stories about Professor Benardete have been affectionately circulated on social media. His students, colleagues, family, and friends are welcome to share them here, if they wish.

Benardete

(photo by Alastair Norcross)

UPDATE: A brief obituary is here, including details of a memorial service from 4 to 5 p.m. on Monday, February 29.

UPDATE (3/1/16): Eric Schliesser has a remembrance of Professor Benardete here. He was “one of the liveliest, analytically acute, erudite, and humorous minds I have ever encountered. His was a peculiar charm: he was just as at ease in thinking through multiple permutations of moves and counter-moves of an argument (I was not surprised to learn he really liked chess), as he was placing that argument in world-historical philosophical context that seemed simultaneously  completely obvious and, upon reflection, utterly original.”

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Alastair Norcross
5 years ago

I am very sad to learn of Jose’s death. He was a wonderful philosopher, teacher, mentor, character, and friend. I learned more from him than I can possibly say. Generations of Syracuse students were (rightly) devoted to him. Report

J. A. Cover
J. A. Cover
5 years ago

I am deeply saddened by news that Jose has passed on, no longer the bright and joyful conversationalist among us, the loss of a genuine pedagog of the old style. He was unequaled along three or four parameters of philosophy in the academy, one or two now almost completely lost. He knew much: I remember one seminar session where the chalkboard — inevitably written up-hill (left to right) — was at one point wholly filled with his scribbles: they were in original Greek, and in the first-order quantificational idiom with operators, and with some passing references to Dante, Frege, Putnam, and sacred scripture (the New Testament). I have rarely laughed so hard in a grad course (on Dummett, late one evening), and written so furiously with wet eyes to record a sequence of reasoning I thought then would change my life. He was a curious and kind man. No small book could hold the many fond stories his students could offer — of broken spectacles propped so precariously upon his ample nose while in the thick of battle (he took philosophy seriously), of frightful rides whilst he drove (as it were drove — a frightful thing), of peas flying off his plate as he cursed at Quine across the table (these occasions of taking the Lord’s name in vain I forgave him — the price of admission, for starters), of whole sessions taught without removing his floppy galoshes, of parking tickets and unchanged car oil and cries of “man overboard!” and seminar sessions dragging on past 11:30 PM and on and on. We love our Jose stories because they capture one endearing bit of a colorful soul not cut out for the real world, but for living and moving among the gods (and the poets and the ideas and the arguments — all the time, no down-time, no time off). I loved the man, could never repay him, and will never (ever) forget him. Countless others could, will, say the same. May there be a place for him, in the heavens, near Plato. Report

Richard Dworin
Richard Dworin
5 years ago

I’m very sorry to hear this news about Jose Benardete. Though I met him only once and briefly, I knew him somewhat through his work and his extended family. He seemed an extraordinary combination: a rich erudition honed by the most analytical of minds, joined with a baroque sense of dignitas that gave meaning to the term “gentle.” He was the courtliest of men in a very uncourtly age. My thoughts are with his wife Catherine and brother Diego.Report

Clyde L. Hardin
Clyde L. Hardin
5 years ago

The first 33 minutes of José Benardete’s memorial service are now on YouTube: https://youtu.be/OJwWXW-xHTIReport

Anne Feryok
Anne Feryok
5 years ago

I am sad to learn to that Jose Benardete has died, and I send my heartfelt condolences to Catherine Lord. Both of them deeply affected me, not only through words and ideas, but also through the wisdom and passion and grace and wit and care and commitment with which they lived; their lessons were in life as well as philosophy. Jose’s greatness of soul will live in his works, but the human being will be missed.Report

Arthur Panaro
Arthur Panaro
2 years ago

Here in Octorber 2018, Dr. Benardete flashes through my memor
In my time at Syracuse Philosophy department as graduate student,’69-’70, I had the pleasure of attending one, at least, maybe two of Dr. Benardete’s classes. He had a taking and highly articulate style of speech, and his character shown with a vivid and dramatic flair. Having seen video of a talk he gave, I was reminded of his expressive hands and fingers flying out into the space around him, and this made his points all the more enticing. I recall a limerick he shared which is indicative of the verve of his assertions.
There was a young lady from Australia
Who dressed for a ball as a dahlia
When the petals uncurled
They revealed to the world
That the dress as a dress was a failure
I do believe the point. “dress as a dress”, that Dr. Benardete was making might have had something to do with the metaphysics of the “thing in itself.” I also recall his proposal that there could be a language using only single words at a time: Slab– could mean “Give me a slab to start the next course of a wall.” Slab? “Is this a slab?” Slab–with gesture: “Move the slab over there.”
At any rate, this exceptional man lives still in my mind. Arthur PanaroReport