A memorial service for Alan Paskow, 71, who taught philosophy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland for a quarter century, will be held on the St. Mary’s College campus at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21, in Auerbach Auditorium in St. Mary’s Hall, with a reception to follow in the River Center. Paskow died peacefully in his home of cancer April 5. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a special conference travel fund for philosophy students in Alan Paskow’s name (made out to “SMCM Foundation”; please indicate on memo line, “Alan Paskow Fund”).
He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline, a professor emerita of foreign languages and culture who also taught for 25 years at St Mary’s College, and his daughter, Linnea, 35, a professor at Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn.
Paskow was known for his passion for philosophy. He practiced a kind of philosophy that gives substantial credit to first-person experience, inner consciousness, and mixed emotions, including angst, facing one’s own death, the confusion of moral weakness, and self-deception. Among his articles are “The Meaning of My Own Death,” “Towards a Theory of Self-Deception,” “Moral Denial, Moral Weakness, and the Complicity of the Self,” and “What is Aesthetic Catharsis?” In 2004, he published The Paradoxes of Art: A Phenomenological Investigation (Cambridge University Press), in which he demonstrated why art − especially painting – matters, and how it makes a difference in our lives. The book was critically reviewed at a panel at the American Philosophical Association.
Paskow was born in Elizabeth, N.J., graduated from Haverford College and received his M.A. in philosophy at Northwestern University, before transferring to Yale to obtain a Ph.D. in philosophy. His first position was as a Danforth Fellow at Antioch College, Ohio, followed by a tenure-track position at the University of Vermont, where he got involved in college politics. It was the era of the Vietnam War. Paskow and his colleagues demanded that the department and university be run more democratically, with the result that a newly appointed chair recommended that Paskow and four of his colleagues not be rehired.
Paskow went on to accept a position at Prescott College in Arizona, where he and his wife taught for one semester before the institution went bankrupt. When about 60 students refused to leave, the Paskows − with a few other faculty members − stayed on and held classes in their living rooms while collecting unemployment for two years. Paskow helped to reconstitute a board of trustees and a newly named Prescott College for Alternative Education. A new teaching opportunity arose at Deep Springs College in the desert of California, where he and his wife taught and lived in a community with students and faculty on a self-managed cattle ranch and farm.
In 1981, Paskow accepted a full-time position at St. Mary’s College. At St. Mary’s, he and his colleagues persuaded their fellow faculty members to constitute both a department and majors in the fields of philosophy and religious studies. He retired in 2005.
He is remembered by his family, friends, and colleagues as a person of great integrity. Diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and aware of his life-threatening illness, he continued to engage deep questions about the meaning of life in a circle of friends, with an openness admired by all.