Department News

Remembering Eliot Deutsch (1931 – 2020)
Jul
01
2020

The life of Eliot Deutsch lies at the center of the comparative philosophy movement over the past two generations. In many ways, his biography is deeply embedded in a story he, in important measure, helped to write within the corridors of the Philosophy Department at the University of Hawai’i. 

The first chapter of this story begins with his precursors, Charles A. Moore and Wing-tsit Chan who in the 1930s, with the support of their then president, Gregg Sinclair, shared both a vision and a special place. The University of Hawai’i like the community it served was coming of age, and was marked by an extraordinary diversity of languages and cultures. With a student body of over 70 percent Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, there was some considerable expectation and motivation for the faculty to provide an inclusive education that would be relevant to the lives of its diverse students.

It was under these conditions that the Philosophy Department from its earliest days was committed to teaching the discipline within the framework of Western philosophy, but with the distinct and singular mission of challenging the self-understanding of professional philosophy that philosophy is an exclusively Anglo-European enterprise. To this end, the department provided access to the texts and languages of the non-Western philosophical traditions of South Asia, China, Korea, and Japan, as well as Buddhist and Islamic philosophies, arguing through both its research agenda and its curriculum that philosophy is an inclusive affair of global proportion.

In 1939 the Philosophy Department hosted the first of the East-West Philosophers’ Conferences, bringing to the islands the wise grey heads of East and West to reflect upon and discuss the pressing issues of the day. The first several of these summer conferences convened in 1939, 1949, and 1959 were small and long, expanding over time to include some twenty or thirty philosophers for six weeks of intensive discussion. If the events were modest, they attracted some of the most distinguished minds in world philosophy: William Ernest Hocking, F.S.C. Northrop, D.T. Suzuki, Hu Shih, S. Radhakrishnan, Thomé H. Fang, John Findlay, Hajime Nakamura, Richard McKeon, John E. Smith, Tang Chun-I, T.R.V. Murti, and many more.

Moore and Chan had laid the foundation for an intellectual movement, and their initial vision was indeed a noble one. The goal was to formulate a synthetic world philosophy negotiated out of the best of each tradition by distinguished scholars from around the world to serve as a philosophical charter for world peace and prosperity. 

Each of these world congresses produced a volume of papers that recorded the exchanges among the philosophers present, extending the impact of these meetings as resources for further philosophical reflection for decades beyond the conferences themselves. And in 1951, with the same goal of widening the influence of global philosophy, Charlie Moore published the first issue of Philosophy East and West, a quarterly journal of comparative philosophy that was over time to become the central voice for the ever-widening community of scholars who would join this revolt within the discipline. It was because of the growing prestige of the conference series, the conference volumes published the University of Hawai’i Press, the growing reputation of the philosophy department and its faculty as the center for world philosophy, and Philosophy East and West as a forum for research in comparative philosophy that in 1960 the then Governor John A. Burns was able to lobby the then Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson to establish the East-West Center in Hawai’i.

Enter Eliot and the beginning of the next chapter. There is a wonderful story that Eliot would tell of how he first met Charlie Moore. In 1963 as a young assistant professor, he had received a fellowship as a Faculty Fellow at the American Institute of Indian Studies in New Delhi, and was doing research on classical Vedanta philosophy. In order to meet many of the leading Indian philosophers of the day, Eliot made his way to Chandigarh in northern India to attend the All-India Philosophy Conference. Charlie Moore had been invited to this conference as a special guest, and at its conclusion, Eliot and Charlie prepared to fly back to Delhi from Chandigarh. Having hitched a ride with the delegation of senior scholars escorting Moore to the airport, Eliot waited with Charlie the usual Indian time for the plane to arrive. Finally, the imminent arrival of the plane was announced over the loudspeaker. But the plane without making the slightest gesture of wanting to land at the small Chandigarh airport, simply flew overhead and on its way. On inquiry, it was discovered that Charlie and Eliot were the only two passengers to have reservations, making it hardly worthwhile for the plane to land—a point quite beyond dispute.

Charlie and Eliot were provided a car and a driver. An otherwise distressing six hours of negotiating an automobile through the clamber and bustle of an Indian landscape that only travelers through India will ever know was made quite wonderful by the opportunity these two philosophers had to engage in their art. The animated conversation continued through the evening and over breakfast the next day. And three years later Eliot was invited to join the Philosophy Department at the University of Hawai’i from his position at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and to succeed Charlie as the Editor of Philosophy East and West.

   Inheriting the mantel from Moore in 1967, Eliot carried the project of promoting Western literacy on non-Western philosophical traditions into the second half of the twentieth century and beyond. And on his watch, the earlier rather romantic vision of a distilled world philosophy gradually gave way to a rather different project. As a counterweight to the many sins of an unstoppable process of globalization, the search for a unifying sameness was transformed into a celebration of philosophical and cultural differences, differences that once activated could be resourced for evolutionary and hybridic growth.

Charlie Moore had worked hard to build up the subscription base for Philosophy East and West, but starting up a new journal for a sub-discipline teetering on the margins of professional philosophy was not easy; in 1967 its was still a cottage industry with only minimal professional and institutional support. Comparative philosophy desperately needed a community.

It was the professional eyes and acumen of the young Deutsch that established Philosophy East and West as the voice of comparative philosophy within the Western academy. Over time, with peer-reviewed essays by leading scholars and special topical features that expressed the rich differences distinguishing the various cultural traditions of our world, Eliot attracted and nurtured the shared identity of a community of like-minded experts. It was around Philosophy East and West that this community was institutionalized to become the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy (SACP). In 1967 with the assistance of Karl Potter, Richard Robinson, and Hans van Buitenen, Eliot and sixty-eight founding members gathered together to undertake the organizing of SACP. In its more than half a century of existence, the Society has organized hundreds of panels at national meetings of the American Philosophical Association, the Association of Asian Studies, and the American Academy of Religions as well as many international research conferences, and has sponsored its own monograph series initially edited by Philosophy East and West’s then book review editor, Henry Rosemont.

By the time that Eliot in 1987 decided to step down from his twenty years of editing Philosophy East and West, the journal had grown from under 200 mostly individual subscribers to 1200 primarily library subscriptions, and the participating membership of SACP had expanded to include over 400 scholars.

Beginning in 1969, Eliot took on the responsibility of a continuing conference series with smaller meetings on special topics such as law and logic, as well as representative philosophical figures to become topical issues of the journal. The first of these conferences was on “Aesthetics East and West,” and included such luminaries as Albert Hofstadter, Stephen Pepper, and Donald Keene. And there was a conference on Wang Yangming on the 500th anniversary of his birth, and again on Martin Heidegger on his 80th birthday. The field of comparative philosophy had by now matured to the point that greater in-depth critical engagement could be carried forward.

Throughout this period, Hung Wo Ching, an enlightened local businessman had taken on the task of raising financial support for these conferences as his business, and he did it very well. In 1987 with the assistance of the perennial Wing-tsit Chan, at this time close to his ninetieth year, and with the steady support of Hung Wo Ching, plans were laid for the next large conference on the theme, “Culture and Modernity.” For Eliot, a whole new generation of scholars interested in comparative philosophy had arisen, and the time was now ripe for strengthening the department’s continuing tradition, for an upswing in scale, and for real innovation. In 1989 with the convening of this Sixth East-West Philosophers’ Conference, 130 scholars came to the Islands from some thirty-three countries, including for the first time the USSR, Africa, and Latin America. These distinguished scholars in their own right joined in conversation with some of America’s most prominent representatives: Rorty, Bernstein, Heller, MacIntyre, Putnam, Danto, Outlaw, and many others. Under the wise eyes of Eliot’s capable directorship, like so many of his other ventures he had undertaken on behalf of the department, it was nothing less than an historical event.

By now, with the cumulative affect of the thriving graduate program, the conference series, the conference volumes, the journal, and the output of his research productive colleagues, not only had the commonplace that Asian traditions might have something to say about religion but not philosophy been fully discredited, but comparative philosophy with its epicenter at the University of Hawai’i had earned a place at the discipline’s table with six of the last eight presidents of the APA joining in the discussion. 

And so this conference series continues, with its twelfth iteration being scheduled for May 2021. Scholars of good-will proceed with civility and critical intelligence to contribute what insights they can bring to bear on the pressing issues of our changing times. And Philosophy East and West continues, with 2020 marking its seventieth year.

Another chapter in this story has been Eliot’s own philosophical career as a motive force in the comparative philosophy movement. The narrative divides into two rather distinct and yet overlapping phases. In his first incarnation, he was a student of Indian philosophy and culture, publishing translations of the classics and interpretive studies on the high philosophies of South Asia. His translation of the Bhagavad Gītā (1968), his Advaita Vedanta: A Philosophical Reconstruction (1969), and his Source Book on Advaita Vedanta (with J.A.B. van Buitenen) (1971), belong to this earlier formative period.

Although never really abandoned, this more historical beginning gave way to a sustained creative reflection through which Eliot entered the realm of philosophy proper as a philosopher in his own right. Where these two phases intersect is that the philosopher Eliot Deutsch was a world philosopher drawing heavily upon the broadest range of the human experience: the canons of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Buddhist, and of course, Western philosophy. In this creative phase, Eliot published book-length comparative studies on metaphysics, aesthetics, truth, freedom, the construction of person, and philosophy of religion.

As a defining signature of his work, Eliot moved away from the familiar centrality of metaphysics and epistemology to consistently take aesthetics as the starting point of his philosophical enterprise. Creativity and personal freedom have been the key values in his vision of the project of becoming consummately human. There is a real sense in which the philosophy of Eliot Deutsch, in a way analogous to several of the Asian traditions from which he has drawn his inspiration, can fairly described as a philosophical aestheticism.

There is a special space in the Philosophy Department at the University of Hawai’i named for Eliot as the Eliot Deutsch Seminar Room. And in that room along with a complete collection of both Eliot’s philosophical oeuvre and of Philosophy East and West, graduate student seminars are held daily as the next generation of world philosophers prepare for their own important careers. There is nothing that grateful colleagues who have shared in the life and the vision of this special person could do to remember him better than to continue the tradition he has embodied so well.     

Roger T. Ames

Peking University

Professor Emeritus, University of Hawai’i

33 thoughts on “Remembering Eliot Deutsch (1931 – 2020)

  1. Chenshan Tian

    I was a MA student in 1994, studying comparative philosophy with Professor Roger Ames, my advisor, and also from Professor Cheng Chungying. I am here together with Professor Ames, expressing myself as one of the grateful students (colleagues) who have shared in and been benefited from the life and the vision of this special person, Professor Eliot Deutsch. I remember him very well. Yes, there is nothing we could do to remember him better than to continue the tradition he has embodied so well.

    Reply
  2. Wonsuk Chang

    So sad to learn he has passed away. My deepest sympathies go out to you and your family.
    Rest in peace.

    Reply
  3. Tamara Albertini

    The world has lost an eminent scholar and sage. Eliot Deutsch will be dearly missed by his colleagues, former students, and friends. For as long as he was alive, he was our link to our Department’s exciting beginnings and the phenomenal spread of comparative philosophy. We all owe him a profound scholarly debt. Those among us who knew him personally will also remember his graciousness and kindness.

    Eliot’s philosophy, lived aesthetics, and leadership will remain an example for philosophers and non-philosophers. Eliot showed us that we lead best by working hard, being patient and compassionate, and supporting the good in all endeavors. He exuded authority in the original sense of the term: he mentored by applying himself to the growth of talents, ideas, and character. Eliot helped two generations of philosophers find their scholarly voice and build an inclusive basis for their thoughts. He taught us that philosophy knows no cardinal directions. It is not the possession of any nation or culture; it belongs to humankind.

    Tamara Albertini
    Chair and Professor of Philosophy
    University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

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  4. Arindam Chakrabarti

    Long—at least 15 years— before he launched me in the University of Hawaii Department of Philosophy, I happened to meet Eliot Deutsch very briefly when I was a doctoral student at Oxford. With his deceptive nonchalance, he abruptly wanted to look at a paper of mine. I sent him a hand-written paper which, with unconcealed irritation, he got typed with some suggested edits, and surprised me within a year by my first refereed publication in PEW!
    Like my Indian and British professors, he never praised my work in front of me, but for the 15 years we were colleagues, knocked at my door regularly and demanded to read my current research. And of course, dinner at his place was the most congenial cultural high point, gawk as I would at an original Picasso “Minotaur” drawing hanging on his bedroom wall, on my way to the restroom, as Indian classical music and Johann Sebastian Bach would be playing in a low volume, while drinks were served outside! Even when he walked with a walker and came only once a week to the department, and was writing those beautiful Zen Koan style poems, he afforded me the honor of sharing my philosophically unkempt over-enthusiasm with a living legend of a world-philosopher that he was. Not just his incomparably canonical monograph called Advaita Vedanta which generations of teachers have taught and will keep teaching, but his early work on Truth, and late work on Aesthetics, Creativity and Friendship will keep him alive in what I learned from him to call comparative philosophy without borders.
    Like the other Eliot (T.S.), our Eliot kept returning to the Bhagavadgita. In his Four Quartets, the other Eliot “wondered if this is what Krishna meant” when he talked about time past, time future, and the intervening moment of death. If we trust Krishna, Eliot has gone for a change of dress for the next leg of his spiritual/ aesthetic/ philosophical journey. So we should say to him, in the words of The Dry Salvages : “Not fare well/ But Fare forward” voyager !

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  5. JoAnn Rosemont

    JoAnn Rosemont
    Jamestown, Rhode Island

    I think it was William James who said something like:
    The greatest use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.
    In all that he did, Eliot’s life has been an outstanding success.
    He was a cherished friend and colleague to my husband, and a dear, dear friend to my children, and to me. We will always remember him, and have wonderful Eliot stories to tell when we speak of him.

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  6. Richard Vuylsteke

    I first met Professor Deutsch at a Philosophy Department function during the fall semester of 1970, but I already knew of his work to promote serious study of Asian philosophies from my undergraduate philosophy department chair, who had attended an early East-West Philosophers’ Conference at the University of Hawaii.

    As an undergraduate, I took courses in Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Buddhist philosophical traditions, and was particularly interested in pursuing Indian philosophical studies. I was also interested in Advaita Vedanta, which was one of Dr. Deutsch’s special interests, and applied to UH in 1966 because at that time UH was only place one could pursue Ph.D. studies in Asian Philosophy. I also applied for an East-West Center scholarship, as my undergraduate advisor spoke highly of the opportunities it provided not only to live in a vibrant international dormitory environment, but also to have well-funded travel to Asia for in-depth language study.

    UH and the EWC accepted my applications, but a Fulbright Scholarship to India and three years of Army service intervened. By the time I finally arrived on campus, Dr. Deutsch was already eager to talk about the relatively new field of comparative philosophy, besides his own area of expertise.

    The Philosophy Department was an intense mix of scholars with Western and Asia philosophical training. The faculty of that time often had vigorous disagreements on the values of either Asian or comparative philosophy, but to a graduate student the tensions in the department just added to the energy of the times and discourse.

    I regret that Dr. Deutsch and I only became friendly acquaintances, as I had already decided to pursue Chinese philosophical studies. Although I did continue having broader Asian philosophical interests, the challenges of Chinese language study circumscribed my time and required narrower focus. Nevertheless, I did take advantage of selected courses and seminars on Indian traditions in the philosophy, history, and religion departments, with Professors like Lee Siegel in Religion, for example, complementing the enthusiasm Dr. Deutsch had for the field.

    Like so many professors and students, I benefited from attending an East-West Philosophers’ Conference. Like any other field, the competition among philosophical interpretations and oftentimes equally intense challenges between egos proved invigorating. Having a passion for philosophy is a consuming activity. I enjoyed experiencing it first-hand in a community of scholars.

    Dr. Deutsch presided over a time of growth in his chosen philosophical fields, and he was one of the instrumental few who gave UH a global reputation in the field of philosophy. I look back on his drive, dedication, and his impact on academe and academics with great respect indeed. He leaves an impressive legacy and we mourn his passing. May he rest in peace.
    Richard R. Vuylsteke
    President
    East-West Center

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  7. Sean M. Smith

    I began my appointment at UH Mānoa’s Philosophy Department around 2 years ago, well after Eliot’s time as an active member of the Department. I taught my first graduate course in a seminar room named after him. And soon after I arrived, I began helping Frank Perkins with the journal that Eliot did so much much to develop. I never met the man. But his influence has been a palpable dimension piece of the background of my learning the ropes of Departmental life at UH and of the work of cross-cultural philosophy more generally. The phrase ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ comes to mind. May the legacy of all Eliot accomplished and the gentle touch with which he managed to do so much be a comfort to those who knew him best.

    Sean M. Smith, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy
    University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

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  8. Grazia Marchianò

    I am here spiritually together with my late husband, the Anglo-Italian writer Elémire Zolla (1926-2002), to honor the outstanding contribution of ELIOT DEUTSCH as an enlightened pioneer of the fateful encounter between ancient Eastern wisdom and modern Western Culture.

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  9. Grazia Marchianò

    I am here spiritually together with my late husband, the Anglo-Italian writer Elémire Zolla (1926-2002), to honor the outstanding contribution of ELIOT DEUTSCH as an enlightened pioneer of the fateful encounter between ancient Eastern wisdom and modern Western culture.

    Reply
  10. Peter Arnade

    Professor Deutschʻs impact on the shape and intellectual expertise of the Philosophy Department was fundamental, and his legacy wide. I regret that I was never able to meet him in person after my arrival in summer 2012. That said, his footprint is large and its scope clear. The tributes to him posted here are even more an indication of this fundamental truth. Manoaʻs Philosopy department is unlike any other, and it is to scholars like Professor Deutsch to whom we owe its stand out reputation.
    Peter Arnade
    Dean, College of Arts, Languages and Letters
    Professor of History

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  11. Ashok Kumar Malhotra

    Ashok Kumar Malhotra
    July 3, 2020

    I am really saddened by the passing of Eliot, who was my mentor, friend and inspiration.
    Our paths crossed and met when I was a student member of the committee that hired him at the UH Philosophy Department in 1966 after the passing of Charles Moore.
    Winfield Nagley, then the chairman of the Department, put the young and high-spirited Eliot on my thesis committee, who on different occasions came to my rescue when I got stuck with answering difficult questions during my thesis defense.
    Along with Henry Rosemont, Eliot became my Western guru guiding me to get involved in the inauguration of the SACP in Boston. Moreover, Eliot was so persuasive that he urged me to conduct the first SACP session by reading a paper on “Sartre and Samkhya Yoga” at the APA meeting in Boston. He, along with Ken Inada, further enticed me to become the SACP Symposium chairman to conduct panels on EW Perspectives on Truth, Self, Religion and Art by inviting scholars from East and West and to publish the proceedings in PEW.
    Eliot was also instrumental along with Henry to urge me to write at least six reviews of books for PEW, which led me to get my promotion to full professor before the age of 40.
    I was fortunate to read and review Eliot’s delightful book on Aesthetics which inspired me to visit Japan and China a couple to times to enjoy and appreciate the intricate simplicity of Japanese gardens. During my student days at the East West Center, Hawaii had an intimate way to get under my skin by becoming my second home though I resided in Upstate New York. While I visited Hawaii on numerous occasions, I met and had inspirational chats with Eliot. He was always full of ideas to help his students whom he was so good at inspiring. During one of those meetings at the now Eliot Seminar room at UH, I proposed to set up a Seva (compassionate service) Award for Philosophy students at UH. This award would be given to a student who not only was excellent in studies but also helped the under-served people of the community. This was my way of giving back to the philosophy department for success in my profession life. With the advice of Eliot, this small gesture on my part has been able to provide cash awards to at least 13 UH students since 2008. He also advised me to set up a similar award at the EWC for foreign students which I also did.
    As a friend, I am very sorry about Eliot’s passing. I am going to miss him a lot during rest of my life.
    However, Eliot’s life and the good he did selflessly for others is only the cup that is half full, the remaining half, which is empty, is left for all of his caring friends to fill while we are alive.
    Let’s remember the good and inspirational time we have had with Eliot and keep doing the good things he left for us to do.
    Eliot’s spiritual presence will permeate my future visits to Hawaii and I hope it does the same for all his caring friends.
    Dr. Ashok Kumar Malhotra
    Emeritus SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor
    Founder/President : Ninash Foundation (www.ninash.org)
    Founder: Yoga and Meditation Center
    AARP Purpose Prize Fellow

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  12. Menaha Ganesathasan

    I met Professor Deutsch in 1994 when I entered UH to study Advaita Philosophy. His immense knowledge, his recruitment of professors foremost in Indian Philosophy, his gentlemanly and courteous attitude to life enhanced my learning in ways that I couldn’t have foreseen. I’m greatly indebted to him.

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  13. Jennifer Jackson

    It saddened me deeply to learn of Professor Deutsch’s passing. I believe that he will find whatever comes next in a most beautiful way. As the assistant to the editor of Philosophy East and West for almost 10 years now, I feel blessed to have a role in continuing an important part of his legacy.

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  14. Carl B Becker

    I shall not forget a class with Eliot in the early ’70’s, along with Tom Kasulis, Tom Jackson, Ashok, probably Bob Zeuschner and Rick Vuylsteke, in a classroom north of Hale Kuahine, with people drinking coffee from plastic cups. Eliot began by suggesting we discuss the attributes of the concept of “truth” in many cultures. The discussion waxed quite far afield of “truth,” so I raised my hand to ask that we return to definitions of “truth.” Eliot silenced me with, “We are not looking for definitions, but for family resemblances.” This provoked a friendly dialogue of many decades, in which he perpetually pushed me away from Aristotelian and Dignagan logic “which are only aesthetic values after all” towards a broader aesthetic perspective on ethics and philosophy.
    It was in large part Eliot’s letter of introduction to Prof. Takeuchi of Kyoto University which led me to do further graduate study in Kyoto (rather than in Tokyo with Nakamura, whom I had already met at East-West Conferences)–which changed my life. Except for periodic returns to research or teach at UH, I have resided and taught in or near Kyoto ever since. So I owe Eliot unending thanks for prodding me not only from logic to axiology, but from Honolulu to Kyoto.
    I treasure memories of sitting literally at his sandaled feet on the floor of his Kahala home, after an afternoon of swimming together, listening to Eliot interweave discourses on Asian philosophy and the classical music in the background with tales of his past adventures and visions of future peace and prosperity in Asia (in the Vietnam War era)–and happily doing dishes with Sanna in the kitchen afterwards.
    I remember how he returned several term papers with detailed handwritten comments or a request to see him. Once when I did, he explained that he knew personally most of the authors that I quoted; he explained the respects in which I wasn’t adequately comprehending their perspectives, much less their attitudes, which he also critiqued acerbically.
    Above all, I remember his grand sense of humor and his humor-spiced sense of grandness. Eliot saw interconnections between people, ideas, the arts, the environment, Hawaii and the world; he appreciated them all, those that he loved, and even those he critiqued. I am deeply thankful to all those who carry on his projects at the EWPC and Philosophy East and West. I pray that Eliot will remain tolerant and benignly critical of our feeble efforts to continue his legacy from his present position among the sages of the ages.

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  15. Vrinda Dalmiya

    As the then Department Chair, Eliot was involved in hiring me at UH. I still remember his voice over the static in an unclear international call. That unclear phone conversation literally changed the course of my life and is one I will never forget. As an M.Phil student in Kolkata, I had heard of Eliot. His work in Vedanta was held up as a model of how one could write creatively and lucidly in English about dream worlds, rope snakes and world magicians. Little did I know then that I would have the privilege of not only meeting him but of becoming his colleague.

    We take so much for granted now about the legitimacy of comparative philosophy. But what is normal today was not so a few decades back. Comparative philosophers owe a lot to the vision of pioneers like Eliot who were the first to break down barriers. His contribution to the discipline, to the UH Philosophy Dept, and to training a new generation of comparative philosophers is immense.

    I am flooded with memories of small interactions with him in the xerox room and in the halls of Sakamaki that were so much part of the ‘dailiness’ of my life in the dept. I am thinking of his grace as an academic and his humor and his habit of jingling his keys in his pocket when conveying something unpleasant that I needed to hear! When Eliot moved offices, I inherited the Kashmiri lamp that was there. It now lights up our living room and is a reminder of a scholar, a mentor and a human being who was able to make a difference.

    He will be remembered with much respect and affection.

    Vrinda Dalmiya
    Dept. of Philosophy
    University of Hawaii, Manoa

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  16. Andrew Colvin

    I was fortunate to sit in on Eliot’s Philosophy of Art and Philosophical Anthropology courses and I still use his Advaita Vedanta text with my students. I remember his wonderful and effortless lectures, his wisdom, and especially – his laugh. Am sad to hear of his passing.

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  17. Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee

    I just wanted to echo my colleagues here their sentiments of profound sadness over the passing of Dr. Deutsch. Even though I did not have the chance to take Dr. Deutsch’s courses, I remember fondly of many interactions that I had with Dr. Deutsch; he was always welcoming and encouraging to those of us who were new to philosophy. Switching from political science to philosophy, I was one of those newbies back in the 90s, and intimidated by the towering reputation of Dr. Deutsch, I was hesitant to sign up for his seminar. Upon learning my hesitation in our hallway conversation, Dr. Deutsch took time to address my concerns and tried to encourage me to take the course. I regret that I didn’t take up Dr. Deutsch’s invitation then. But his legacy lives on in many of us who have had the good fortune to be graced by him.

    Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee
    Professor of Philosophy
    University of Hawaii – West Oahu

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  18. Raymond Steiner

    Professor Deutsch was an invaluable member of my dissertation committee and an excellent teacher as well. Fair-minded and sociable he was, in my opinion, the best teacher in the department. I will always be grateful for his expertise and encouragement.

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  19. Richard Power

    Many thanks to Roger Ames for his beautiful remembrance of Eliot Deutsch. I was privileged to study in the department when Dr. Deutsch was still teaching full-time and having students visit his home. To see both sides of the man–the academic scholar and the winsome, gracious host–deepened my appreciation for this accomplished human being. His influence on world philosophy will continue for generations.

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  20. James D Sellmann

    I studied with our Master, Master Deutsch, in the 1980s. He was a great mentor and master-teacher. I remember that he would take his lunch break by going to the Mano’a swimming pool for his daily exercise. His work on personhood or person-making influenced my work. I continue to cite his work whenever I can. Drawing from his work, I propose that person-making does not end at the death of the individual. One’s person-making continues after death to the extend that the living community continues to revitalize the master’s teachings, just as the personhood process of Kongzi 孔子 or Socrates continued to develop in the work of their disciple-students, so too Eliot’s personhood continues.
    The definition of philosophy that I extracted from Eliot’s work is: “philosophy is the rational and creative study of insights leading to and deriving from the achievement of person-making.” Then the differences between the individual, the self and the person are further elucidated.
    Eliot was always so clam, graceful, engaging, and helpful. At one of his parties hosted at his home, he advised us NOT to go into academic administration. He also promoted the aesthetic model of comparative philosophy and encouraged us to use comparative philosophy to resolve ongoing issues in society and philosophy. That aesthetic perspective also requires people to practice the art of contextualizing (ars contextualus). In my context I had to lose my “faculties” and enter administration to assist the community of scholars I live with.
    The last time I saw Eliot was at the last East West Philosophers conference five years ago in 2016. We had lunch. He was not very talkative. His wife, Marcia, answered the questions that people asked him. I was wondering about his cognitive abilities at that point. After he finished his bento box lunch, he set down his chopsticks and said, in a Zen-like fashion “That was just right.”
    It seems that one of the most difficult lessons in life is learning to let go of our loved ones.

    James D. Sellmann
    Professor and Dean,
    University of Guam

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    1. Tom Kasulis

      For me, Eliot Deutsch embodied comparative philosophy. When I entered the grad program with an EWC Fellowship, I had just completed my doctoral exams in Western philosophy at Yale and so the UH department let me concentrate on Asian philosophy. After acquiring some familiarity with the Asian traditions, I was eager to take one of Eliot’s seminars in comparative philosophy. Much prior work in the field hadn’t impressed me. “Kant argued x and so did Nāgārjuna. Isn’t that interesting?” [Not really, I thought.] In his seminar Eliot disdained such trivial comparisons and immediately immersed us in more substantive projects.

      There was one established fruitful comparative technique that he did sometimes use to great effect, however: the method of applying an Asian term or argument to enhance, improve, or clarify a Western position. The effect is to make Asian philosophy a resource to further an agenda of Western philosophy. That is about what I expected to glean from studying Asian philosophy at that point in my career and I thought Eliot’s comparative philosophy course would teach templates for doing that.

      As the semester proceeded, however, I realized something else was going on, something more profound, something paradigm-shifting. As we followed Eliot’s meticulous course design, we were no longer just seeking better answers to the old (Western) philosophical questions, but also undertaking a novel form of philosophical questioning. Comparative philosophy, it turns out, was not just a way of improving Western philosophy. Rather it opens us to a new way to philosophize.

      Eliot Deutsch thus became an exemplar of how I would want to philosophize. Four points stood out in his method. As far as I know, he never formally stated them, but he showed them in his teaching and his writing.

      1) Be clear about the question. Too often we jump into an ongoing philosophical discussion and just respond to the latest twists of argument in the literature without asking what the root question is and how it came about. Unless we question the question, we can overlook the cultural assumptions that blind us to pathways of insight.

      2) Be clear in your answer. I loved to disagree on some point with Eliot because I didn’t have to waste time trying to figure out what he meant. His thinking and his articulation of that thinking was always so clear. He avoided hiding behind obfuscating jargon. If he used technical words, he explained them precisely. If he coined new words or expressions, he used them to great effect. So in the end, whether he convinced me of his position or not, I always learned from Eliot and became a better philosopher for the discussion.

      3) Distill and critically evaluate the crux of the argument. In my career I have encountered many philosophers of many talents. In one respect, Eliot Deutsch stands alone. While a student and later professor at UH I repeatedly marveled at how he could listen to an hour-long talk and at its conclusion, without having taken any notes, immediately ask the most discerning question that cut to the heart of the most probative philosophical point. He could do that with a written piece as well. Despite my efforts, I have never been able to match that insight and alacrity. My consolation is that no one else has either. Eliot’s philosophical perspicacity in this regard was unique but we should all try to emulate it as best we can.

      4) Philosophize as a creative expression of our humanity, not as a technical skill. For Eliot Deutsch philosophy fashions who we are and expresses our deepest drive to achieve fully human being. Philosophers don’t detach themselves from the world; they engage themselves in it. Philosophers don’t brood about the world; they give birth to new worlds of meaning through the interplay of reflection, reason, and imagination.

      Eliot Deutsch was my mentor, my colleague, and my friend. I will miss him deeply. But since he is also part of me, he may have departed, but he will always be close.

      Tom Kasulis
      University Distinguished Scholar emeritus, The Ohio State University

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  21. Graham Parkes

    Since Roger Ames’s eloquent account of Eliot’s contributions leaves nothing to be desired, let me offer a couple of characteristic reminiscences.

    In a profession where dogmatism is a constant temptation, Eliot was delightfully open-minded. He was present at some departmental review where I, as an untenured member had to provide a preview of my future research. I explained that an interest in Chinese and Japanese gardens had given me the idea of taking up the philosophy of rock and stone. The idea was met with dismissive derision by one or two of my senior colleagues, but Eliot rose to my defence by saying, ‘I think the project has potential. In any case we could certainly use a different kind of craziness around this department.’

    Some philosophers live what they talk and write about, others just write and talk the talk. Eliot was among the former. While writing about aesthetics he practised an aesthetic way of life, with style. A generous and hospitable soul, he was always inviting friends, colleagues, and graduate students for lunches, cocktail parties, and dinners in his elegantly appointed home. I don’t recall any visit chez Deutsch where more than five minutes went by before a cool glass of gin and tonic was in my hand, and the host was raising his glass with a smile that verged on the mischievous.

    Cheers, Eliot!

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  22. James Garrison

    Simply put, Professor Deutsch challenged and enabled me (and many others) to make art life and life art. I’m tempted to say without qualification that he will be missed, and in the most obvious sense this is true. However, I believe that he won’t be missed in the way that many others are, because he will continue to be so very present in every moment, large and small, for those who take up the challenge of artful life.

    That said, he *will* be missed.

    James Garrison
    Assistant Professor of Philosophy
    Baldwin Wallace University

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  23. Clifford R. Ames

    I first met Eliot Deutsch in 1983 when I visited my brother Roger Ames and his family in Hawaii for the first time. I remember that Roger was hosting one of his famous evenings of wine and spirited conversation, and Eliot was among the regular guests. Roger had informed me that Eliot was a senior member of the UH Philosophy Department and a distinguished scholar, so when we met I was surprised that Eliot was totally unassuming and immediately turned the conversation to me, my life and work. This easy affability and open interest in others I found was characteristic of Eliot and part of his altruistic charm.
    Subsequently, when I returned to Hawaii for extended periods of time to teach English literature on a faculty exchange and eventually to enrol as a graduate student in the English Department’s new doctoral program, I came to know Eliot first-hand as a friend, and then, when the external member of my doctoral committee had to resign, as a generous volunteer replacement. I remember because Eliot asked me the last and only question on the oral exam that I couldn’t answer. As I remember, it was something of a metaphorical riddle involving stars on a starlit night reflected on the surface of the water in a pail. When I looked puzzled Eliot laughed and the examination was over. After all these years, I am still no closer to answering Eliot’s question.
    Roger told me that Eliot was a prominent scholar of Indian philosophy, language and culture, and that he had published important translations of the Indian classics from ancient Sanskrit. When I met Eliot, however, he had turned his primary philosophical interest to aesthetics, and this I believe was the focus of his creative philosophical scholarship and of his substantial later writings. But for Eliot aesthetics was not simply an academic curiosity, it was the way he led his life. I always thought of Eliot as the proverbial “Gentleman Scholar.” Eliot was truly an original, he was one of a kind.
    I know that Eliot Deutsch was a prominent scholar and an original philosopher in his own right, but my strongest memory of him is entirely personal. He was for me a kind and generous soul who was endlessly affable and quick to find humour in life’s daily tedium. And he had a wonderful laugh. I am grateful for the many wonderful evenings I spent with him and his wide circle of friends and colleagues. I will miss him very much.

    Clifford R. Ames
    Professor Emeritus
    University of British Columbia Okanagan

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  24. Marietta Stepanyants

    Never before have I been so upset by my poor English as I am today when I have fully realized my inability to express the depth of my feelings caused by Eliot’s passing. I am a foreigner, live far away from Hawaii, and, nonetheless, I realize the gravity of the loss. It was he whose letter of invitation took me to Hawaii in 1989. Thanks to him for the first time, a scholar from the USSR got a chance to participate in an East-West Philosophers’ Conference. That event has played a significant role not only in my personal life. It brought profound changes to our academic community at large. Since 1989, Russian philosophers have started their integration into the comparative philosophy world movement.
    I was honored to visit Hawaii many times and actively participate in five EWPCs. I was enriched a lot by every visit due to a number of reasons. Among them, there was a chance to meet once again Eliot – a great scholar, a man of wisdom, a connoisseur of beauty (be that music, theater or visual arts), a man of dignity, a person of sincere empathy caring about others and helping them in all possible ways. I shall always remember him with deep sadness and heartfelt gratitude.

    Marietta Stepanyants
    Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

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  25. Guy Axtell

    I remember Eliot as an affable teacher, astute instructor, and caring mentor. As a grad student I was thrilled to be invited with others to his home, and the 1989 6th E-W conference which he organized was the major event of my grad student experience at UH, bringing added vitality to an already stellar faculty. It was enthralling also to study Indian philosophy and other subjects with him, using some of his own works. One might think Eliot traveled the jnana-marga to Moksa, and certainly he did; but when you look not just at his research but at his character and service, it is clear that he has traveled all of these paths.

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  26. Chung-ying Cheng

    Remembering Eliot Deutsch as a Colleague and as a Friend

    Although I arrived at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa three years earlier than Eliot. Having been invited like him to do Asian philosophy from and with a modern Western philosophical background, I always saw him as a co-arrival. Eliot was working on Indian Philosophy just as I did on Chinese Philosophy. We were indeed early pioneers in pursuing both Asian and Comparative Philosophy in this growing University supported by a large Asian community of Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian peoples, including Indians.

    Eliot was highly innovative and ingenious in taking the initiative to organize the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy (SACP) in 1967. It is he who invited me to serve as treasurer of the Society, which I did for three years in the first term of the Society’s treasury office. In those years, Eliot was able to gather a group of scholars specialized in Asian traditions such as Porter, Robinson, Rosemont, and me. He made sure that we attended well-designed panels on Asian and comparative philosophical topics in metaphysics and ethics for the APA, AAS, and other events. I witnessed Eliot act as a great leader and devoted scholar. He turned the adventure of the Society into sheer success. Along with our East-West Philosophers’ Conference series, his efforts had partially inspired me to found the International Society of Chinese Philosophy (ISCP) in 1975 and the Journal of Chinese philosophy (JCP) in 1973. Although Chinese philosophy was not his field, unlike others, he had a profound understanding and appreciation for differences between Indian and Chinese philosophy.

    Eliot was a gracious and generous person. He was hospitable and often entertained friends from far and near. He had a mind that was open and compassionate and ears that listened carefully before responding to the point and with a sense of humor. I think it is because of his serene personality that the Department has more than once elected him as the Chair. As a friend, I miss our philosophical chatters, especially those shared in a group headed by Copi and Nakamura, which met every month in a coffee shop in some good times 30 years ago.

    Chung-ying Cheng
    Professor of Philosophy
    University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

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  27. Geoff Ashton

    My thanks to those who have shared their tributes to Eliot. To recognize myself as one of the many he has influenced clarifies the nature of my gratitude for Eliot and my time in the Dept at UH Manoa.

    I arrived to the Philosophy Dept at UH Manoa in order to work with Arindam Chakrabarti and Eliot Deutsch, among others. I had just completed my MA at the University of Chicago, where I focused upon Sanskrit and Indian aesthetics but was only allowed to study Indian philosophical texts through the methods of philology and intellectual history. With Arindam on sabbatical during my first year at UH (2003-2004), Eliot (the Dept Chair at the time) served as my primary mentor. I learned a tremendous amount from Eliot during that first year, including a seminar on Philosophical Aesthetics. He helped to reawaken my love of philosophy—and through that, my love of life.

    But just as much as he was welcoming and empathetic, Eliot was demanding. He challenged me to deepen my doubt and clarify my response in the face of that doubt. But his cutting words gave life. He scolded me at two critical points in my graduate career: the first during my MA exam (to transition to the PhD) and the second during an oral defense for my dissertation proposal. These are two of the most important highlights of my academic career. With skillful means, Eliot helped to draw out from me whatever gifts that I had as a philosopher, as well as prepare me to launch a professional career in the academy.

    I feel extremely fortunate to have been at UH Manoa during Eliot’s final years of regular involvement with the Dept. He allowed me to sit in on the final class that he taught at UH: an undergraduate course on “Philosophy and Literature” (I use a number of texts read in that class for the courses that I now teach). Perhaps my most powerful memory of Eliot came when we went to lunch shortly after I had passed my dissertation defense (for which Eliot had served as a part-time co-Chair) and days before I moved away from Hawaii. After an enjoyable meal where I got to hear even more stories from Eliot’s colorful life, we walked to Eliot’s car and he got in to leave. We shook hands and I said, “I can’t express how thankful I am for everything that you’ve done for me, Dr Deutsch.” Still holding my hand and my gaze, he said with his typically youthful playfulness, “It’s ‘Eliot’ now.”

    Geoff Ashton
    Associate Professor of Philosophy
    University of San Francisco

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  28. Geir Sigurðsson

    Professor Deutsch was such a graceful and impressive man. When he spoke, others would listen. Not only was his voice beautiful and deep, but he was so clear, eloquent and essential in what he said. With his profound intelligence and wisdom, he might have appeared formidable to many graduate students, such as myself when I arrived in Hawaii in 1999, but as many others surely did, I quickly found out how open-minded, supportive and generous he was. It was through his influence that I had my first international publication, a paper I had written in his unforgettable course on aesthetics. While my own focus was on Chinese philosophy, it never occurred to me not to ask Professor Deutsch to serve on my dissertation committee and thus miss out on his always relevant and keen insights. As long as I live, I will remember Professor Deutsch with fondness, gratitude and respect.

    Geir Sigurðsson
    Professor of Chinese Studies
    University of Iceland

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  29. Jung-Yeup Kim

    Professor Deutsch’s seminar in comparative philosophy deeply transformed my understanding of philosophy. The thick packet of articles distributed by him in his seminar and the handwritten notes by which I tried to capture his illuminating insights are still on my bookshelf after nearly two decades. He was one of the most fair and broad-minded persons I have met. I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from such a great mind and person. May he rest in peace and my condolences to his family.

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  30. David Jones

    Rabindranath Tagore once wrote that “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” Eliot Deutsch brought a light with him as he sailed to Hawai‘i from New York in 1966. The dawning of Comparative Philosophy would have been unimaginable without him. The vision of an inclusive world philosophy, one accepting of other worldviews and peoples, that was envisioned by Charles Moore and Wing-Tsit Chan and helped brought to light by Harold E. McCarthy and Winfield E. Nagley, would never have been realized without Eliot Deutsch. Our debt to him is deep, and will always remain so.

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  31. ARTHUR (A.L.) HERMAN

    VERY SORRY TO HEAR OF ELIOT’S PASSING. WE TRADED BOOK REVIEWS FOR MANY YEARS AND DRINKS AND LUNCHES AS WELL . HE GAVE ME SEVERAL COPIES OF HIS INDUS VALLEY TREASURES WHICH I HAVE USED FOR YEARS IN MY CLASSES.
    WHAT A SAD TIME FOR PHILOSOPHY WITH THE LOSS OF HIS PRESENCE.

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  32. Leah Kalmanson

    The season is turning in Iowa, and I am very far from Hawai‘i. But, like every year that I teach Philosophy of Art, I am spending the morning reviewing my notes to discuss Professor Deutsch’s small and beautiful essay on art and imitation later today with my students in our second week of class. I always think of him at this time of the semester. I am grateful for this space, this morning, to share these words with the community that still gathers around him.

    Reply

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