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Abraham Kaplan

KAPLAN, ABRAHAM (1918–1993), U.S. philosopher. Born in Odessa, Ukraine, Kaplan was the son of a rabbi and the youngest of eight children. The Kaplan family immigrated to the United States in 1923. Kaplan graduated high school in Duluth at the age of 14. He won five national debating awards at Duluth Junior College and the College of St. Thomas. He studied philosophy at the University of Chicago under Rudolf Carnap and visiting lecturer Bertrand Russell, with whom he became close friends.

Kaplan received his Ph.D. from the University of California in 1942, and taught philosophy there for many years. He taught in many other universities including Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Michigan and in 1966 was named by Time Magazine as one of the ten great teachers of America. He was director of the East-West Center in Hawaii and was chairman of the Israeli Philosophical Society. In 1972 Kaplan moved to Israel to join the Haifa University as dean of the philosophy-sociology department. The Haifa University, which had just been established, was seeking renowned Jewish professors to join the university's faculty. Kaplan was the only professor to oblige, fulfilling his and the Zionist aspirations of his wife, Iona.

Kaplan's philosophical interests were broad in scope, including ethics, aesthetics, political theory, and methodology of the social sciences, as well as Oriental philosophy and philosophy of religion, including Ḥasidic thought. He wrote Power and Society (with W.H.D. Lasswell, 1950); The New World of Philosophy (1962); American Ethics and Public Policy (1963); Conduct of Inquiry (1964); Love… and Death (1973) and In Pursuit of Wisdom (1977). He also published about a hundred articles in professional journals and became associate editor of Philosophy East and West in 1951. Kaplan's motto was "Interest in everything." As Kaplan said of himself: "I am by training a positivist, by inclination a pragmatist, in temperament a mystic, in practice a democrat; my faith Jewish, educated by Catholics, a habitual Protestant; born in Europe, raised in the Midwest, hardened in the East, softened in California and living in Israel."

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.