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Kanzer, M. (1989). Harry Slochower: “The Laughing Philosopher”. Am. Imago, 46(2-3):281-286.

(1989). American Imago, 46(2-3):281-286

Harry Slochower: “The Laughing Philosopher”

Mark Kanzer, Ph.D.

Harry Slochower possesses many kinds of greatness. I have known him best as a great editor, a writer, lecturer, a great friend and—well, just a great guy. An occasion like the present provides an opportunity to change the familiar perspectives, widen one's vistas, and, like an analytic construction, survey this multifaceted figure against broad developmental and social backgrounds which are needed to do him justice.

There is for example Harry Slochower, the social philosopher who has not only taught and written social philosophy but lived it as well. In the fine book by Maynard Solomon on Marxism and Art, he rates 18 pages—more than Trotsky or Gorki or Mao or Sartre, though not quite as many as Lenin.

At the head of the chapter on Harry is a woodcut which in itself is worth the price of the book. It portrays a wise, benevolent, and broadly smiling Harry, suggesting the theme for my talk today, “The Laughing Philosopher.” And almost at the beginning of the chapter we come upon Solomon's apt conclusion that Slochower's “main emphasis is on the need for synthesis,” that his search is for the common denominator, and that the outcome of the search is a vision, despite apparent conflicts and confusion, of an ultimate humanity.

Such a search for an ultimate common humanity does not rest on exuberant optimism or a disposition to bypass real and insuperable differences of opinion. Actually the weeping philosopher is more likely to seize hold of one picture and denounce the others. The true laughing philosopher does not lose his balance or give up easily.

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