North American Scholar

ADKINS, Arthur William Hope

  • Image
  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1929-10-17
  • Born City: Leicester
  • Born State/Country: England
  • Parents: Archibald Arthur & Nora Hope A.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1996-02-13
  • Death City: Chicago
  • Death State/Country: IL
  • Married: Elizabeth Mary Cullingford, 16 September 1961.
  • Education:

    B.A. Oxford, 1952; M.A., 1955; D.Phil., 1957.

  • Professional Experience:

    Asst. humanities., Glasgow, 1954-56; lectr. Gk., Bedford Coll. University London, 1956-61; fell. class. langs & lits., Exeter Coll., Oxford, 1961-65; prof. classics U. Reading (Eng.) 1965-74; sr. vis. Fell., Society Humanities, Cornell, 1969-70; Edward Olson Prof. depts.. class. Langs & lits, Philosophy & Early Christian Lit., U. Chicago, 1974-96 ; Chair, Classics Dept., 1975-80; founding chair, Comm. on Anc. Mediterranean World, 1980-92.

  • Notes:

    Arthur Adkins was raised in Leicester, England and was a student of E.R. Dodds at Oxford. Before join­ing the faculty at the University of Chicago in 1974, he held faculty positions at Glasgow, Bedford College, University of London, Exeter College, Oxford, and Reading. In 1969-70 he was a senior fellow in the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. While at Chicago he chaired the department and was a founder of the Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World (1979-92). During this time he also directed two different National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Seminars for College Teachers “Greek Values, Greek Society and the Interpreta­tion of Greek Texts” (1978) and “Ancient Greek Values and Modern Values” (1985). Beginning with his first book, Merit and Responsibility: A Study in Greek Values Adkins’ writings sparked continuous debate among a wide range of scholars concerning the overall characterization of ancient Greek ethics, the relationship between the various periods and the sources of ancient Greek moral thought, and the extent, nature and causes of the differences between ancient and modern moral values. Additionally, his works have fueled the expected methodological skirmishes among specialists concerning the best way to approach the study of ancient Greek values. Adkins persistently defended his posi­tion in subsequent books such as From the Many to the One: A Study of Personality and Views of Human Nature in the Context of Ancient Greek Society, Values, and Beliefs, Moral Values and Political Behavior in Ancient Greece: from Homer to the End of the Fifth Century, and an impressive and continuous array of articles and critical reviews. He also wrote an important book on Greek poetry, Poetic Craft in the Early Greek Elegists. A Festschrift stemming from papers originally presented at a symposium in honor of his sixty-fifth birthday, held at the University of Chicago on April 8-9, 1994, was published in late 1996. Although known as a classicist, Adkins' writings always revealed a strong concern for the kinds of conceptual issues regarding the uses of language and shifts in word meaning that have engrossed twentieth century ordinary language philosophers. Additionally, he always insisted that moral conceptual schemes can only be correctly understood if one possesses solid empirical knowledge of the larger world-views that create them. These broader, interdisciplinary concerns helped to win him a wide readership, one that includes not only classicists and philosophers but also historically-oriented social scientists pursuing cross-cultural comparisons, scholars of comparative religion, legal systems, and intellectual history, and, indeed, all who share a serious interest in ancient Greek values. Besides being an eminent scholar, Adkins was also an excellent teacher who offered much of himself to his stu­dents. Many remember the warm love and kindness which he showed others.

  • Sources:

    APA Newsletter (June 1996) 12; WHWasWH 11 (1993-96)

  • Author: Michael Boylan & Robert B. Louden