Seth Benardete, 1930-2001

"Seth Benardete, 1930-2001," Weekly Standard, 3 December 2001.

Last week Seth Benardete died, a most extraordinary man, a scholar and a philosopher. His post in life was to be a classics professor at New York University, but he was not an especially prominent professor. Nor was he much known in the world of intellectuals, a realm he never tried to enter. He wrote books on Greek poetry and philosophy, and before he died he was the most learned man alive, and I venture to assert, the deepest thinker as well.

To me, he was both friend and hero. The hero got in the way of our friendship because he was in every way my superior and the best I could offer him was unspoken admiration. I first met him in 1957 when he arrived at the Society of Fellows at Harvard, a group of very bright or highly praised young persons who are given the run of the university for three years. He had received his B.A. in classics from the University of Chicago in 1949 and his Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought in 1955, with a dissertation on “Achilles and Hector: The Homeric Hero.” I was introduced to Benardete by his fellow student at Chicago and our common friend Allan Bloom. All three of us were in the company of those who saw something quite remarkable in the teaching of Leo Strauss.

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