Monday, March 7, 2011

Paul Henry (1906-1984)

The following is an obituary of Paul Henry (UCSD Philosophy Professor 1965?-1969) written by Richard Popkin (UCSD Philosophy Professor 1963-1973) and printed in the Journal of the History of Philosophy 23 (1985), 453.

Paul Henry (1906-1984) 
Paul Henry was a renowned scholar of Plotinus and Neo-Platonism. Born in Louvain, the son of a chemistry professor at the university there, he was sent to school in England during World War I. He then returned to Belgium, and studied philosophy and theology at Louvain, and joined the Society of Jesus. He did further studies in Paris in Middle Eastern culture, and studied Arabic in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. In Rome he did further studies and received an S.T.D. from the Pontifical Gregorian University, as well as a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was appointed professor at the Institut Catholique in Paris. He published several fundamental studies on Plotinus and the development of Neo- Platonism in Western thought. He and Hans Rudolf Schwyzer of Zurich collaborated on the critical edition of Plotinus's Enneads,and he and his former student, Pierre Hadot, produced the critical edition of the theological treatises of Marius Victorinus.

Paul Henry made his first visit to the United States in 1952 where he was a visiting profes- sor at Fordham. At a meeting of the American Philosophical Association that year he met Richard Popkin. They became close friends. This led to Henry being invited to be a visiting professor at the University of Iowa, to give the Foster lecture on the immortality of the soul at the University of California, Berkeley, and to his later being appointed a regular professor at the University of California, San Diego. He also was a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Duke, Northwestern, the College of New Rochelle and St. John's University in New York.

Paul Henry was an important consultant and adviser to the Journal of the History of Philosophy in its early years. With his vast erudition, his understanding of the different kinds of scholarship being undertaken in Europe and America, in Catholic and non-Catholic institutions, he was able to assist us in finding the best scholarly articles, the best referees and reviewers of materials in many fields.

Paul Henry was a person of immense charm, vivacity and humanity. He was able to break down barriers between people of differing backgrounds, and to form deep, abiding friendships with students and scholars all over the world. He took great interest in a variety of ventures to increase learning and understanding in intellectual history. His concerns ranged from early Christian thought, pagan Neo-Platonism, the fusion of the two in Victorinus and Augustine, up to leading intellectual ideas in modern European thought such as the structuralism of Levi- Strauss and the theology of Teilhard de Chardin. He encouraged young and maturing scholars in America and Europe, and tried to bring out the very best of their abilities. He encouraged the understanding of different thought systems, the appreciation of their strengths and weak- nesses. And, perhaps as much as any one in the post-second-World-War period, he encouraged frank and open discussions between Catholic and non-Catholic scholars, and thereby built many bridges.

Those who knew him have profited immensely from his learning, wisdom and humanity. Those who worked to launch and develop theJournalare especially grateful for his help and support in the early days of this venture. We hope that his scholarship will encourage many others to develop fresh understandings of Neo-Platonism and its importance in the philosophical, theological and scientific world, from ancient times to the present. He will be sorely missed, but he has left a great legacy to those working in the history of philosophy.


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