τῶν κρειττόνων τινὸς ἔκλειψις γέγονεν,
(Plutarch, Moralia 419f)
Samuel (Shmuel) Scolnicov, Professor of Philosophy (Emeritus) and a former President of the International Plato Society, died on August 13, 2014 at his home in Israel, owing to complications related to diabetes. Samuel was born on March 11, 1941 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, immigrating to Israel in 1958. After a year spent studying chemistry, Samuel earned a B.A. in philosophy and Hebrew language and literature from Hebrew University in 1964 and an M.A. in philosophy in 1967, with a thesis on the epistemological significance of Plato’s theory of ideal numbers, written under the direction of Shlomo Pines. In 1967, Samuel was also awarded a B.A. in high school teaching. In 1974, he received a PhD from Cambridge University under the direction of Bernard Williams, with a dissertation on Plato’s method of hypothesis in the middle dialogues.
In 1974, Samuel was appointed lecturer in philosophy and philosophy of education in the Faculty of Humanities at Hebrew University. He moved through the academic ranks until his appointment as full Professor in 2005. He was made Emeritus in 2010. He was visiting professor at numerous universities all over the world, including Catania, Sicily, Sao Paolo, Brazil, Toronto, Canada, Cambridge, England, Mexico City, Paris, and the University of California at Irvine.
Most member’s of the Society will be most familiar with his substantial contributions to Plato studies, including Plato’s Metaphysics of Education (1988), Plato’s Parmenides (2003), Euthydemus: Ethics and Language (2013), and his co-edited volumes New Images of Plato: Dialogues on the Idea of the Good (2002) and Plato’s Laws: From Theory into Practice (2003). But this covers only a part of Samuel’s extraordinary scholarly productivity and very few will be personally familiar with its full breadth, since he wrote not only in English, but also in his native Portuguese and in his adopted language, Hebrew. He wrote monographs on Plato and the Pre-Socratics, textbooks on the history of ancient Greek philosophy and translations of ancient Greek philosophical texts (in Hebrew), not to mention scores of articles on virtually all aspects of Plato’s philosophy. His passionate interest in the theory and practice of education also led him to publish in monographs, reports, and scholarly articles his extensive work on the philosophy of education and on the place of the humanities in the university. From 1975-1991, Samuel served as the chair of a committee dedicated to developing curricula in philosophy for high schools in Israel.
Samuel was one of a small group of international Plato scholars who founded the International Plato Society in 1989, now having more than 300 members worldwide. He served on its Executive from 1995 to 2004, and as its President from 1998-2001, hosting the triennial Symposium (on Plato’s Laws, not his own choice) in Jerusalem in 2001, and having to handle a difficult situation politically after hostilities had sadly broken out again. Widespread respect for Samuel as a person was undoubtedly a factor in that Symposium’s success. He continued supporting the Society’s events up to and including the 2013 Symposium in Pisa. The only sign of frailty at that time was the wise if regretful decision not to ascend the Leaning Tower.
It is difficult to think of any scholar who embodied the ideals of the IPS more than did Samuel Scolnicov. Moving easily among numerous languages and cultures, and among the various approaches to Platonic studies, Samuel found it completely natural to combine the detailed philosophical and philological exegesis of Plato with the promotion of the humanities in schools and in the wider culture. Those who knew him personally will recall not only his great warmth and wit but also his love of teaching and engagement with his academic colleagues. Samuel is survived by his wife, Hanna Scolnicov, Professor Emerita of Drama at Tel Aviv University, his daughter Anat, his two sons Ariel and Haggai, and six grandchildren.
Thomas M. Robinson who preceded him as President and worked with him on the IPS Executive over six years has written as follows:
My most vivid memories of Samuel Scolnicov are of conversations between us—seven or eight of them—at various conferences over the years, some of them meetings of the International Plato Society in different parts of the world, others meetings of the International Association for Greek Philosophy, in Samos and other parts of Greece. From the time I first met him till the time I last saw him he came across as a philosopher for whom ideas were the core of life. Each conversation was conducted at white heat, with a passion to get at the truth of the topic at issue. Philosophy was his profession, but it was also deeply felt deeply by him as a life to be lived, and that living was never more evident than when he was arguing a case for education, the great driving force of his life. Sit terra levis illi, animae naturaliter Socraticae.