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Allan David Bloom, Author, Educator and Classic Philosopher from Indianapolis

Allan David Bloom was an influential philosopher, writer and educator born in Indianapolis in 1930. Well-known throughout Indiana and Illinois during his career, Bloom was made even more famous posthumously by his friend and colleague, Saul Bellow, who wrote a book based on Bloom, called Ravelstein. Bloom’s name now resides on many lists of famous people from Indianapolis.

A respected teacher at Cornell University, Yale University, the University of Toronto and École Normale Supérieure in Paris, Bloom was a proponent of the important “Great Books” series and educational system of teaching philosophy. Over time, Bloom became a famous critic of higher education in America, especially after his book, The Closing of the American Mind, hit the best-seller lists in 1987.

Listen to the voice of Allan Bloom in this fascinating video of a discussion from his “Perspectives” series.

 

Bloom’s early life was shaped by his two Jewish parents, who were both social workers. In 1944, the couple moved to Chicago when he was thirteen, taking him and his older sister with them. In 1946, at the age of fifteen, Bloom entered into the University of Chicago’s gifted program in humanities, formally setting foot on a life-long journey in search of wisdom and rational thinking. He graduated with a B.A. in philosophy at the age of eighteen. After receiving a PhD from the University of Chicago’s “Committee on Social Thought,” Bloom continued to study from great philosophers in Paris, while teaching there at the École Normale Supérieure.

In 1955, Bloom returned to the United States, and gravitated back to the University of Chicago, where he had connections. He taught there some five years, then went on to Yale, Cornell and the University of Toronto, after which, in 1979, he decided to return to teach at the University of Chicago again, coming full circle, as it were. He never returned to live in Indiana. Allan Bloom was a notable member of the Telluride Association at Cornell, a group which made its mark on the platform of character formation.

In this short video, Allan Bloom delivers an informal lecture on the influence Nietzsche.

 

Upon his return to Chicago, Bloom took up an association with the famous writer, Saul Bellow. The two actually taught courses together, courses which were no doubt electrifying for the fortunate students who got to see and listen to this pair in person. It was during this period that Bloom wrote The Closing of the American Mind, published in 1987. This work, a critical reflection on the general failure of the American universities to educate, made Bloom rich and famous, selling nearly 50,000 hard-back copies.

Here’s a very interesting and personal look at Allan Bloom, interviewed by a New York journalist, in which Bloom avers, “I am not a snob.”

 

On his deathbed during a protracted stay in the hospital, Bloom dictated his last book, Love and Friendship, which examines the profound subject of the meaning of love.

Allan David Bloom died in Chicago in 1992. This famous quotation from him is a brief summation of his life’s work:

“The meaning of life is unclear, but that is why we must spend our lives clarifying it rather than letting the question go. The university’s function is to remind students of the importance and urgency of the question and give them the means to pursue it. Universities do have other responsibilities, but this should be their highest priority.” –Allan Bloom, 9/14/1930 – 10/7/1992


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