Michael H. Mendelson
May 12, 1956 - November 29, 2016
The members of the Philosophy Department are deeply saddened to announce the death of our dear colleague. Professor Michael Mendelson was an internationally-recognized Augustine scholar and a most valued teacher of the history of philosophy. He was a kind, gentle, and generous man with a sly, dark sense of humor, capacious philosophical knowledge, and inexhaustible interest in philosophical discussion. Students flocked to his courses on Hellentistic philososphy, Eastern philosophy, modern philosophy, the philosophy of music, medieval philosophy, 19th-century German idealism, the darkness called death, philosophy of horror films, and others, not only because of the interesting course content, but also because his own intellectual honesty, quirky perspective, and unflagging encouragement of and interest in them opened personal and intellectual possibilities and affirmed their quests to find their own thoughts and voices as philosophers. Whether in the weekly faculty seimnar, in the department lounge, on the patio, on the Philosphy Cottage steps, or on the sidewalk in the rain, Michael loved to discuss philosophy with students and colleagues. He will be sorely missed.
Michael Mendelson received his B.A from the University of Massachusetts and his M.A and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, San Diego. He joined the Lehigh faculty in 1995 and was in the process this semester of transitioning to retirement.
Philosophy is where it all began and where learning to think well continues.
Originally encompassing all fields of study, philosophy remains the foundational discipline of all the disciplines at the university and the core of a liberal arts education. At once both highly theoretical and profoundly practical, philosophical thinking is reflective and critical conceptual activity concerned with some of the most enduring and challenging of fundamental questions about the nature, meaning, and possibilities of human existence, the world, and the ways we think about them. What makes humans human? What is the best way to live? What can we know? What really exists? How can we think well? What are goodness, truth, beauty, space, time, causation, language, consciousness, happiness, freedom, rationality, justice? Questions like these occur to most people, especially when we are young; cherished beliefs and assumptions about them structure our lives, often without our being aware of them. Philosophers are gripped by such questions and seek to address them through creative critical thinking, reasoned analysis and argumentation, and thoughtful discussion, instead of making assumptions or accepting answers to them based on opinion or prejudice. The study of philosophy develops skills in careful and flexible thinking, critical analysis, sound reasoning and argumentation, objective evaluation, clear and persuasive writing, and the toleration of uncertainty.
The Philosophy Department faculty members are scholars with international reputations whose research and teaching expertise represents a wide variety of specializations within philosophy. We have different intellectual interests and approaches to doing philosophy, but we are all devoted to teaching and research, convinced of both the social importance of philosophical problems and the potential of philosophy to immeasurably enrich our lives, and committed to appreciating, and leading others to appreciate, the historical depth of philosophy.