What follows is a guest post by Andrea Lorenzo Baldini (Nanjing University) talking about the life and philosophy of the recently passed Joseph Margolis (Temple University)
The philosopher of art Joseph Margolis passed away on June 8th of this year. I received the news about his passing while I was riding the subway on my way to a meeting with one of my students. The sad update was mentioned in an email that a common friend sent to me. Joe, as we usually called him, was 97 years old, born on May 16, 1924. He received his PhD from Columbia in 1953, where he met – among others – the influential philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto. He started teaching at Temple University in 1968, and would never retire.
The news hit me hard: after reading the email, I missed my subway stop not once, but twice, ending up being a bit late for my meeting. My mind started running faster than the train I was on, and years of memories started rushing through my head. I couldn’t hold my tears, just as I can’t while writing these few words to remember and celebrate one of the greatest aestheticians of the 20th centuries, and a dear friend.
I met Joe in the late summer of 2008, when I started my PhD at Temple University. Margolis would later become my advisor. The deep and personal relationship that I developed with him was not unusual among his students. Many of them could tell countless stories not only of his extraordinary philosophical acumen and argumentative wit, but also of his profound kindness and authentic humanity, which made Margolis very much loved in academia. To use one of his favorite terms, he was an “uncanny” individual in the most positive sense of the world: a rare mix of intellectual prowess and heartfelt sensibility.