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Walter Kaufmann

KAUFMANN, WALTER (1921–1980), U.S. philosopher. Born in Freiburg, Germany, Kaufmann was raised as a Lutheran but returned to Judaism. He went to the U.S. in 1939 and studied at Williams College and Harvard University, where he received his B.A. from the former (1941) and his Ph.D. from the latter (1947). From 1944 to 1946, he served in the United States Army Air Forces and Military Intelligence Service.

Kaufmann began teaching philosophy at Princeton in 1947 and became a full professor in 1962. He remained at Princeton throughout his career. His main interests were philosophy of religion, social philosophy, and the history of ideas since the 19th century. Kaufmann was a vigorous opponent of arguments for religion. He made an attack on theology of all kinds and favored a naturalistic, humanistic approach.

His best-known writings include Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Anti-Christ (1950), Critique of Religion and Philosophy (1958), The Owl and the Nightingale: From Shakespeare to Existentialism (1959), The Faith of a Heretic (1961), Hegel: Reinterpretation, Texts and Commentary (1965), Tragedy and Philosophy (1968), Religions in Four Dimensions (1976), Man's Lot (3 vols., 1979), and Discovering the Mind (Trilogy, 1980). He translated (with R.J. Hollingdale) Nietzsche's Will to Power (1967), as well as several of his other works. He also translated Goethe's Faust and Martin Buber's I and Thou. His Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre (1956), a selection of texts which he edited and introduced, helped popularize existentialist philosophy in the United States.

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