Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Theodore Plantinga -- 1947-2008

I take note of the passing of the philosopher, Theodore Plantinga (not to be confused with Notre Dame's Reformed philosopher, Alvin Plantinga), not only because of his particular contributions to the field of Dilthey studies and historical philosophy from his perspective as a Reformed Christian, but because of his personal assistance to me in my days as a doctoral student in helping me formulate my dissertation topic in such a way that it brought together my interest then in the Dutch Reformed phenomenologist, Herman Dooyeweerd, with parallel strands in the German phenomenological tradition adjacent to that of Dietrich von Hildebrand and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) in Max Scheler and the critique he leveled against the classical ethical formalism of Immanuel Kant. The yield of this line of advice, years later, was my publication of Scheler's Critique Of Kant's Ethics, Continental Thought Series, V. 22 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1995).

I never got to know Plantinga well, although I did read several of his books and articles, through which I gained considerable appreciation for his perspective and depth of analysis.

Here, in part, is how his university memorial reads under News and Events, "In Memoriam Professor Theodore Plantinga" (Redeemer University, Ancaster, Ontario, July 5, 2008):
It is with deep sadness that Redeemer University College announces the death of Dr. Theodore Plantinga, Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department. Dr. Plantinga died peacefully at his home in Dundas on the evening of July 4, 2008 . Visitation will be held in St. James Anglican Church from 6:30 – 8:30 Tuesday evening (137 Melville, Dundas), and a memorial service will be held there on Wednesday at 1 pm.

Theo Plantinga was born in 1947 in Ee, Friesland , the Netherlands . His family emigrated to Canada when he was four, settling in Winnipeg , where he attended elementary and secondary schools. He went to university at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan , where he received a B.A. in philosophy in 1969. He subsequently completed a Masters degree, and a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Toronto (1975). His doctoral dissertation, published by the University of Toronto Press in 1980, was Historical Understanding in the Thought of Wilhelm Dilthey.

During the next two years, Dr. Plantinga held a full-time position as lecturer in philosophy at Bishops University in Lennoxville, Quebec. Subsequently, he was a translator and managing editor for Paideia Press in St. Catharines, Ontario. He was appointed Executive Director of College Development for the Ontario Christian College Association, founded to explore the possibility of starting a Reformed Christian liberal arts and science college in Ontario.
Plantinga spent the next quarter century as the chair of Redeemer's philosophy department during the institution's founding years. He also translated numerous books by Dutch authors into English, including volumes by the philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd. He also became managing editor of the Dooyeweerd Centre at Redeemer in 2005.

The memorial concludes with these words: "He had a lively wit, a vibrant faith, a ready laugh, a listening ear and a particular fondness for the eccentric. He will be greatly missed as a friend, colleague, teacher and mentor. 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.'"

[Hat tip to C.B.]