Appeared in Winter 1996, Vol. XXII, No. 4
I first met Fritz Wilhelmsen in the summer of 1982 in a lecture room in Universidad Maria Cristina aside El Escorial in Spain. He was easily the most striking teacher-in philosophy, certainly, but really in any discipline and at any level-that I had ever met and have ever since met. By the end of six weeks of a quite simply stunning series of lectures on the history of metaphysics, from Parmenides (“the man very much to be feared” as Fritz was fond of saying) up to and including the beloved Aquinas, I was forever converted to the subject. So converted that on returning home to my undergraduate institution in the U.S., I unhesitatingly turned down a full ROTC scholarship that had been awarded me that summer and took up the study of Aquinas in earnest. After some twenty-odd hours with Fritz in the lecture room and a few more at the bar-I was ready to set aside a life-long dream of a career in the military to venture down, in a phrase of Joseph Owens which Fritz admired, “the trail that reason blazes into the supersensible.” Fritz had that kind of effect on students, and I know there are others who have similar or more dramatic stories.
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