- Remembering Lewis E. Hahn
The following testimonials were offered on the occasion of a memorial gathering for Dr. Lewis E. Hahn held on February 19, 2005, and were compiled for presentation here by Sharon (Hahn) Crowell.
A Tribute to Dr. Lewis E. Hahn (1908-2004) from a Global Perspective
George C. H. Sun
President, Thomé H. Fang Institute, Inc., Mobile, Alabama
Among the philosophical community in both the East and the West, no word of introduction is needed for our beloved Master, who was the recipient of numerous distinctions and honors, with titles that included "Man of the Year in Philosophy" and "Award of Lifetime Achievement." The very name "Lewis E. Hahn" itself already stands now for genuineness, dedication, and fulfillment.
A great work is a dialogue with eternity; a great person is such a work. In less than thirty years he succeeded in developing Carbondale from what had been a small college town in the Midwest into the Mecca of American philosophy. His most important achievements were the Dewey Center and the Pepper Archives that he helped install at SIUC These, among other such institutions, will remain a unique contribution, a glory of American philosophy, and a monument in the history of human thought.
For posterity Lewis E. Hahn will remain an object of wonder and amazement. How is it possible for one human being to have accomplished so much, so well, and in so short a span of time—less than one century—in breadth, depth, and diversity? Some one hundred years ago, by bridging the gap between the New World and the Old, William James was hailed as the great genius of international friendship among philosophical thinkers, but we now find a greater genius in Lewis E. Hahn, who succeeded in bringing together the peoples of East and West from at least four continents: Europe, Australia, America (both North and Latin America), and Asia. To my knowledge, few of his predecessors and contemporaries have been half so widely read and liberal-minded as he was, in view of the range and scope of the Library of Living Philosophers that he helped continue after the passing of its founder, Dr. Paul A. Schilpp.
What type of man was Hahn, our younger generation will wonder? Only a pluralist approach can help us understand the true character of such a legendary pluralist-contextualist. In short, he was "a full personality." As I recall, while working on my dissertation with him in the 1970s, we had a brief discussion on Confucius, the sage of ancient China. "A full personality!" was his laconic assessment. Suddenly I realized, to quote the Analects: "The Master is talking about himself!" For, as the Buddhists put it, only a Buddha can understand a Buddha. Or, as William James put it, only one who has philosophy can appreciate philosophy. Many friends [End Page 1] of my generation admire him so much; Te Chen of Hong Kong calls him "a great Confucian in America." Those who regret the loss of many precious Confucian virtues in China today have now rediscovered them in the person of Lewis E. Hahn! If Nietzsche called Kant "a great Chinese in Königsberg," it is simply because he had not encountered our own Master.
A paradigm of academic leadership, Dr. Hahn is simply irreplaceable—this is a tribute I personally heard in Carbondale in the late 1960s. It is not an exaggeration to say that he was a superb administrator, and he could have been the best Secretary of the State we ever had, for he possessed more in the way of philosophical wisdom than all his predecessors put together! As a great teacher, he was no less "serene, good, learned, wise, and ardent" than...