Robert C. Solomon

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Robert C. Solomon
Born September 14, 1942
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Died January 2, 2007(2007-01-02) (aged 64)
Zurich, Switzerland
Alma mater University of Michigan
Era 20th / 21st-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Continental philosophy
Main interests

Robert C. Solomon (September 14, 1942 – January 2, 2007) was an American professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.


Early life

Solomon was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. His father was a lawyer, and his mother an artist. He was born with a hole in his heart and was not expected to live into adulthood. After earning a B.A. in microbiology (1963) at the University of Pennsylvania, he moved to the University of Michigan to study medicine, switching to philosophy for an M.A. (1965) and Ph.D. (1967).

Teaching and research

He held several teaching positions at such schools as Princeton University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Pittsburgh. From 1972 until his death, except for two years at the University of California at Riverside in the mid-1980s, he taught at University of Texas at Austin, serving as Quincy Lee Centennial Professor of Philosophy and Business. He was a member of the University of Texas Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Solomon was also a member of the inaugural class of Academic Advisors at the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics.

His interests were in 19th-century German philosophy—especially Hegel and Nietzsche—and 20th-century continental philosophy—especially Sartre and phenomenology, as well as ethics and the philosophy of emotions. Solomon published more than 40 books on philosophy, and was also a published songwriter. He made a cameo appearance in Richard Linklater's film Waking Life (2001), where he discussed the continuing relevance of existentialism in a postmodern world.

Solomon developed a cognitivist theory of the emotions, according to which emotions, like beliefs, were susceptible to rational appraisal and revision. Solomon was particularly interested in the idea of "love", arguing against the notion that romantic love is an inherent state of being, and maintaining that it is instead a construct of Western culture, popularized and propagated in such a way that it has achieved the status of a universal in the eyes of many. Love for Solomon is not a universal, static quality, but an emotion, subject to the same vicissitudes as other emotions like anger or sadness.

Solomon received numerous teaching awards at the University of Texas at Austin, and was a frequent lecturer in the highly regarded Plan II Honors Program. Solomon was known for his lectures on Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre and other existentialist philosophers. Solomon described in one lecture a very personal experience he had while a medical student at the University of Michigan. He recounted how he stumbled as if by chance into a crowded lecture hall. He was rather unhappy in his medical studies at the time, and was perhaps seeking something different that day. He got precisely that. The professor, Frithjof Bergmann, was lecturing that day on something that Solomon had not yet been acquainted with. The professor spoke of how Nietzsche's idea of the eternal return asks the fundamental question: "If given the opportunity to live your life over and over again ad infinitum, forced to go through all of the pain and the grief of existence, would you be overcome with despair? Or would you fall to your knees in gratitude?"

Solomon collapsed and died of pulmonary hypertension on January 2, 2007 while changing planes at Zurich airport.[1] His wife, philosopher Kathleen Higgins, with whom he co-authored several of his books, is a Professor of Philosophy at University of Texas at Austin.

Selected publications

  • Existentialism (McGraw–Hill, 1974)
  • "Graduate Study in Continental Philosophy in American Universities," Teaching Philosophy 1:2, 1975
  • The Passions (Doubleday, 1976)
  • "Teaching Hegel," Teaching Philosophy 2:3/4, 1977
  • History and Human Nature: A Philosophical Review of European Philosophy and Culture, 1750–1850 (Harcourt Brace Janovich, 1979)
  • In the Spirit of Hegel (Oxford, 1983)
  • From Hegel to Existentialism (Oxford, 1987)
  • Continental Philosophy Since 1750 (Oxford, 1988)
  • About Love: Reinventing Romance for Our Times (Simon & Schuster, 1988)
  • The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love, with Kathleen M. Higgins (University Press of Kansas, 1991)
  • The Bully Culture: Enlightenment, Romanticism, and the Transcendental Pretense, 1750–1850(Littlefield Adams 1992)
  • Ethics and Excellence (Oxford, 1992)
  • A Passion For Justice (Rowman & Littlefield, 1995)
  • A Short History of Philosophy with Kathleen M. Higgins (Oxford, 1996)
  • It's Good Business: Ethics and Free Enterprise for the New Millennium (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997)
  • The Joy of Philosophy (Oxford, 1999)
  • Wicked Pleasures: Meditations on the 'Seven' Deadly Sins (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000)
  • (co-authored) What Nietzsche Really Said (Random House/Schocken, 2000)
  • From Rationalism to Existentialism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001)
  • Phenomenology and Existentialism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001)
  • Sexual Paradigms (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002)
  • Spirituality for the Skeptic: The Thoughtful Love of Life (Oxford, 2002)
  • The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy (Wadsworth Publishing, 2002)
  • (co-authored) From Africa to Zen: An Invitation to World Philosophy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003)
  • Not Passion's Slave: Emotions and Choice (Oxford, 2003)
  • What Is An Emotion?: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Oxford, 2003)
  • Living with Nietzsche (Oxford, 2003)
  • Thinking about Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions (Oxford, 2004)
  • Dark Feelings, Grim Thoughts: Experience and Reflection in Camus and Sartre (Oxford, 2006)
  • True to Our Feelings: What Our Emotions Are Really Telling Us (Oxford, 2006)
  • The Little Philosophy Book (Oxford, 2007)

See also