Robert C. Solomon, 64; former philosophy professor at UCLA

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Robert C. Solomon, 64, a philosophy professor who taught at UCLA in the 1960s and at the University of Texas at Austin since 1972, died Jan. 2 of pulmonary hypertension after he collapsed at the airport in Zurich, Switzerland.

Solomon, who specialized in existentialism and wrote or edited more than 40 books on ethics and the history of philosophy, was known as a charismatic, popular lecturer.

He appeared as a philosophy professor in the 2001 film “Waking Life,” directed by one of his former students, Richard Linklater.


Born in Detroit in 1942, Solomon earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of Pennsylvania. He switched his focus from science to philosophy after a professor at the University of Michigan Medical School explained the theory of eternal recurrence.

“I was not a happy camper at medical school,” Solomon told a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman in 2005. “I liked the science, I liked the idea of doing good for people, I just really didn’t like the atmosphere ... so I asked myself a question: Suppose this is the rest of your life, suppose there’s nothing else. And I realized, OK, I gotta do something else. That’s when I quit. So yeah, existentialism had a profound effect on me.”

Solomon wound up with master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy and psychology from the University of Michigan, then taught at Princeton before arriving at UCLA in 1968.

He spent two years in Westwood, then moved on to brief posts at the University of Pittsburgh and Queens College in New York before landing in Texas.