George Anastaplo: an appreciation

by Joel Rich

I first met George Anastaplo in the Fall of 1969 at one of the first staff meetings of the then largely reconstituted teaching staff of the University of Chicago’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults.

On that occasion, George gave a staff briefing – the first of many that I was to experience from him over the years – on a short selection from Aristotle’s Politics. It was where the importance of the size of a polis is briefly considered.  And, in the course of the discussion that followed the briefing – during which, a listing of small cities was provided, the quality of life in which we were intended to consider – the effect of living close to a large airport was raised. George claimed that living close to an airport was an example of a bad thing that could result from the size of a city. But a colleague responded, “Well, living near an airport isn’t such a bad thing; people get used to it.” And I remember, “as if it was yesterday,” George replying, with animation and with a smile: “Yes! But think about what THAT means!”

As it turned out, it took me awhile to understand how – and why – it’s not a good idea to allow yourself to get used to bad things – and much longer still to make what efforts I could to have that understanding inform my own daily doings – but it was the first of very many fruitful “lessons” that I was to experience over what turned out to be many years in which I would have the privilege and the pleasure of knowing George Anastaplo.

Many years ago, when I was serving as an academic administrator, I had occasion to introduce George before one of the public lectures in the Basic Program Works of the Mind series. And, after mentioning features of his life that were then usually indicated on such occasions – his writings, his First Amendment case, etc. – I concluded then by saying:

“… George Anastaplo: a colleague of some of us; a teacher of us all.”

The words still seem apt.

(originally included  at a University First Friday lecture by Joel Rich – on December 2, 2005 – whose topic was inspired by Mr. Anastaplo.)

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