by Jane Lenel
If you weighed all the books and articles that 82-year-old philosopher and Roxborough resident Stanley Rosen has published, plus their translations into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Serbian, Polish, Chinese and Hebrew, you’d tip the scale over. If you added all the philosophical essays along with poetry he started writing when he was in high school, you’d probably break the scale.
The subject matter of Rosen’s work is also “heavy.” Not only has he written numerous books on the great philosophers of the past — Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, etc. — and examined the differences between them and the moderns, but he has penetrated such topics as the science of wisdom and theory of knowledge, aesthetics, metaphysics, human nature and conduct; all universal concerns.
“Philosophy is everything; everything is philosophy,” Rosen insists. “It can’t be about something alone; it has to be about everything … It is the love of wisdom; it is a way of life with the ultimate goal of striving for completeness — the most a human can be.”
Here is just a sampling of Rosen’s remarkable quantity of publications: “Plato’s Statesman: The Web of Politics” (Yale University Press, 1995); “The Question of Being: A Reversal of Heidegger” (Yale University Press, 1993); “The Ancients and the Moderns” (Yale University Press, 1989); “The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry” (Routledge, 1988); “Plato’s Symposium” (Yale University Press, 1987); “Hermeneutics as Politics” (Oxford University Press, 1987); “Plato’s Sophist” (Yale University Press, 1983); “The Limits of Analysis” (Basic Books, 1980); “G. W. F. Hegel: An Introduction to the Science of Wisdom” (Yale University Press, 1974); and “Nihilism: a Philosophical Essay” (Yale University Press, 1969).
Along with this formidable body of work, Rosen has traveled throughout Europe and Canada lecturing at countless universities. Add to these his lectures throughout the U.S. and his 38 years of teaching at Penn State followed by 12 at Boston University, where he held the Evan Pugh Professor of Philosophy Chair, and you would conclude that this is the work of several lifetimes.
In recognition of this plethora of scholarly activity are the fellowships and honorary positions Rosen has held throughout the world, including the presidency of the Metaphysical Society of America, an honorary doctorate from the University of Lisbon, the Neu Family Award for Excellence in Teaching from the B.U. College of Arts and Sciences, and honorary membership in the Serbian National Academy.
So what were the influences in Rosen’s background that led to his profound involvement in philosophy? Born in 1929 and raised in Warren, Ohio, he originally wanted to be a writer. His Russian father loved novels — and insisted that his six-year-old son read “War and Peace!” His highly intelligent mother read several languages. Though his parents’ literary interests were not in line with son Stanley’s philosophical bent, Rosen explained that he grew up during the Great Depression amid riots, poverty and rampant anti-Semitism. “I knew what life is actually like. I had a wider view of life.”
Cleveland High School, where he rated his learning intake as D-minus, didn’t do much, either, though Rosen’s high IQ evidently helped. “I had no interest in an academic life, and was regarded by teachers as eccentric. I was also considered neurotic” by one administrator, he says.
His early years at the University of Chicago (where he was originally in the top 20 in his application for a scholarship) weren’t much better. He cut classes and failed them in order to make time for his own philosophical pursuits.
However, despite this academic disinterest and anti-classroom behavior, he received his B.A. in one year in a special program, skipped a Master’s degree and earned his Ph.D in 1955 after five years of study at the U of C. Eventually, he found a place there in the Philosophical Committee on Social Thought — “the first intelligent people I’d ever met” — and was on his way.
During his 12-year professorship at Boston U., Rosen lived in Wellesley, Mass., until he retired in 2009 with his wife, Françoise, to Cathedral Village in Upper Roxborough. There he recently finished his soon-to-be published “opuscula,” a two-volume collection of his papers and book reviews, and is now rewriting his book, “G.W. F. Hegel, An Introduction to the Science of Wisdom.” He is also thinking about writing his memoirs.
The Rosens have three children: Nicholas, a senior examiner in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C.; Paul, Managing Director of a “good food store” in Missoula, Montana; and Valerie, who lives in Bryn Mawr and is about to receive her post-doctorate fellowship in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.
You can contact Dr. Rosen at email@example.com.