Monday, November 9, 2009

Thorild Dahlquist 1920-2009

Swedish philosophy and in particular the subject as it was taught and practised in the University of Uppsala most of my lifetime, has lost a great teacher and a remarkable personality.In the faculty listings of the university Dr Dahlquist was found under the relatively humble position of emerited teaching assistent.Make no mistake – the title by no way gives an idea of the real importance of this learned,witty and acute intelligence,nor of his general influence.This is the more remarkable ,because Thorild Dahlquist ,except for some very short texts,never published any work.Even if hardly ever permitting any of his thoughts to go into print,he was an avid correspondent.An impressive number of Uppsala dissertations,including my own , were the results of Thorild Dahlquits supervision.His letters,of which I had the pleasure to receive a few even when the correspondent was approaching his nineties , in the characteristic clear and well-organized writing,where marvellous.They combined profoundity in thought with great simplicity in expression.
Which were Thorild Dahlquists philosophical interests ? Almost everything.The ontological proof, the emotive theory of value ,of which he – strangely –remained a stunch defender even into a time when to most moral philosophers it seemed to have lost its relevance – Andries MacLeods realistic ontology,the new theory of reference, (Stig Kanger was a conversational partner) and the theory of meaning,my own field ,where I profited greatly from his advice.
His teaching was entirely oral. I think it was Sören Halldén of Lund who compared him to a Socrates whose favorite classrooms were for many years in the street corner or a coffee table in the Café Alma ,situated in the basement of the main building. There he could be seen almost every afternoon,surrounded by a listening circle of students.And anybody was free to join.
As the years passed, Dr Dahlquists teaching took on more organised forms. He got his own hours in the department ,which he, with a slightly antiquated and not quite relevant,term called soliloquies ,where he handled problems and questions from very diverse parts of the field in a way which attracted two generations of participants,fascinated by the personality and the style.
We are many who owe our thanks to this great teacher. His nearest is Dr Ann-Marie Henschen- Dahlquist,also a philosopher of Uppsala.


  1. Thorild Dahlquist called his meetings "colloquies", at least in 1990, when my paper "Spinozas intuitiva insikt" was presented.
    Joachim Siöcrona

  2. I feel sorrow. Firstly, because I appreciated Thorild both as person and intellectual guide, during my Uppsala years in the late 50:ies. Secondly, because it revives my regret at losing contact with him or others holding his attitude and practicing his way of thinking. I believe (or hope :) ) that, all the same, these things have characterized my life since those days. I would welcome back to public life the analytic, empiristic and critical thinking that was his.