Lillian Levy Cropsey (1920-2006)

This Works of the Mind Lecture, my first talk under University of Chicago auspices since the death of Lillian Cropsey on December 8, is dedicated to her memory. She was a lady many of us have known for decades, in part through her husband, a distinguished member of the Political Science Department of this University.

Mrs. Cropsey was an elegant woman of good taste, who was very much a member of several associations dedicated to community betterment. She was knowledgeable in the arts and an accomplished pianist. The manager of a fine book store recently recalled her as a woman who would ask him discerning questions about books. Others can testify to her subtle sense of humor as well as to her warmheartedness. Not the least of her accomplishments was her gracious toleration of the quite frisky bloodhound that her husband once kept in their quarters.

Perhaps the most eloquent tribute to Lillian Cropsey’s character and influence may be seen in the dedication with which her family cared for her in her closing, severely-afflicted years. Her son and daughter did what one hopes that children will always try to do in such demanding circumstances.

Her husband did that, too. But because he was always nearby, he could do even more – so much more that his efforts can be understood as simply heroic, arousing the justified admiration of all who knew the family and what he was doing in so steadfast, even in so noble, a manner.

Indeed, I presume to suggest, the depth of character and the resiliency thus displayed by him bodes well for the work he can now hope to return to, in full measure, on Plato’s Parmenides. It is a dialogue which suggests both the origins and the range of the philosophical inquiry that has come down to us from ancient Greece.

It is appropriate, I also presume to suggest, that this particular lecture (on Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus) should be dedicated to Lillian Cropsey’s memory. I say “appropriate” because I am speaking today about what happened to one of the most “dysfunctional” families in literature, the family of Laius and Jocasta and their son.

It is reassuring, when one encounters such wrenching aberrations as that ill-fated Theban family, to be reminded of how one family among us, here in Chicago, conducted itself when put to a severe test, affirming thereby a standard of intelligent compassion that all of us should aspire to but few of us can match.

 – George Anastaplo
Chicago, Illinois
January 21, 2007


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