Introduction by Tamsin Lorraine
An active teacher and scholar in areas that include the philosophy of technology, philosophy of law, moral philosophy, environmental ethics, and social and political philosophy, Hans was also co-founder of the Environmental Studies program. In addition, he has worked tirelessly toward giving the ethical principles by which he stands living expression in the multiple communities of which he is a part.
In his beautifully lucid book on tolerance*, Hans distinguishes "mere" from "full" tolerance and argues that our disagreements should prompt us not to the refusal to pass judgment, but rather to critical engagement and an active process of attempting to understand the practices we contest, even as we continue to refuse to adopt them.
He wrote this book, he once said, out of concern for the young people of Swarthmore College and the fear that they would allow "mere" tolerance to hermeneutically seal them off from that with which they disagreed. In his view, that would be to dismiss and ghettoize what should really prompt engaged reflection. The views reflected in this book, along with the concern prompting its writing, are borne out in the committed stance he takes to everything he does as well as the compassion and care he shows to those around him.
Many of you already know him as a dedicated teacher and scholar. In addition, he is a world traveler who takes truly marvelous photographs that reflect an abiding curiosity about the world and sensitivity to life in its myriad forms. He also happens to be a warmly supportive colleague and the Philosophy Department's resident source of advice about cutting-edge technology. We will do our best to substitute frantic online searching for his sage advice, but as a living exemplar of a morally centered existence, he is irreplaceable.
In the years that I have known him, Hans has never made a big show of doing the right thing - he is more likely to tell a funny story that reflects the wry delight he takes in humanity than to lecture people about what they ought to do. And yet he taught those around him through his work and through the example of his actions the value of integrity and strength of character. I am delighted to present to you, Hans Oberdiek.
*Tolerance: Between Forebearance and Acceptance. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001.