From the obituary in the Tallahassee Democrat:

A devoted Marxist, Hodges was an organizer for the Communist Party and labor organizations as a young man. At FSU, he inspired a cadre of students who formed FSU’s controversial Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapter in the late 1960s.

Many were students in a short-lived interdepartmental program Hodges created called social philosophy, which taught “anarchism, Maoism, Trotskyism, anything except capitalism,” said former FSU activist, … Jack Lieberman.

“He was keenly aware what he was doing would not meet the approval of the administration,” said Lieberman, now a Miami businessman. “But it was some of the best studies of my life and I learned a lot.”

Hodges was infamously cantankerous. Before his 2003 retirement, he lived more than 20 years in the Miccosukee Land Co-Op, where “He was not much involved in the community because he was not interested in anyone telling him what to do,” said Mitchell.

Hodges never learned to use a computer, imposing constantly on the philosophy department secretaries. He spent six years as chair of the philosophy department, until colleagues voted him out for spending the department’s entire travel budget on one of his research trips.

… “He could be a pain in the butt, no question about that,” said longtime FSU philosophy professor Russell Dancy.

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11 Responses to “Donald Hodges, Florida State University Philosophy Professor”

  1. theprofessor Says:

    Yes, I know this type all too well.

  2. Shannon Says:

    Some people confuse brilliance with assholery.

  3. Nick Drummond Says:

    IN MEMORY OF HODGES

    It gave me great sadness to learn that Donald Clark Hodges passed away last month and it angers me to see his reputation sullied by bloggers who never met him and a journalist whose dispassionate article fails to do him justice. I was fortunate enough to study under Dr. Hodges in the years 2001-2004. Please allow me a few words to give you a better understanding of this great man.

    To begin, I am a conservative, a true conservative, which means I think Bush, McCain, and much of the Republican Party are neocon liberals who have sold out the American people. Surely I am not the typical leftwing brainwashed student these bloggers are talking about in their disparaging remarks about my former professor. Hodges and I may have ultimately disagreed on more than we agreed, but he taught me far more than any professor I have ever studied under and he challenged me to see the world differently.

    Hodges was a cosmopolitan man who traveled the world, lived a rich and adventurous life, and met many strange and interesting people. How many professors do you know chose to work in a factory just so they could experience what workers’ conditions are really like? How many American professors do you know are fluent enough in another language and culture to teach at a foreign university? How many professors do you know are adventurous enough to explore distant lands and track down the leaders of revolutionary organizations so that they could learn firsthand the “how” and “why” these insurgents are waging war against their enemies? When Latin America was the hotspot of its day, Hodges spent a great deal of time in places like Uruguay where he met people like Abraham Guillen. The friendship and mutual respect he built with Guillen actually resulted in Hodges translating the former’s premier revolutionary strategy book, “The Philosophy of the Urban Guerilla.” During these travels, the Uruguay authorities caught Hodges with subversive Tupamaro literature and brought him in for questioning. How many professors do you know could tell you a story like this with a glint in his eyes and laugh about being interrogated under an intense light beam like some old spy movie? Stories like these were plentiful from an adventurous man who did much more than lecture to his class about things he read from some book. Hodges animated his lectures with the many colors of his vast life experience.
    Hodges was a prolific writer with countless books and articles to his name. He was one of the most erudite scholars of Latin American revolutionary theory of his time and his understanding of class politics in the United States was matched by very few. Following in the footsteps of James Burnham, Hodges believed that the simple divisions of capital and labor can no longer explain what is going on in America. He wrote multiple books about America’s new economic order and its new class, a managerial and professional class, which has taken control of the lion’s share of the surplus generated in Western societies.

    Hodges was not an idle scholar who wasted his free time watching television or surfing the web. He was a serious reader who could spend the entire day marking up his books with notes in the margin, though he confessed to me that his wife eventually forbade him of this graffiti practice. When the man studied something, he did so thoroughly. Brilliantly. True scholarship to Hodges meant reading every book available on a subject and then taking it one step further by reading every biography available on the authors he read so that he could know the meaning of their words through their own eyes. Hodges would also track down original sources to see for himself if they were being cited correctly or taken out of their proper context. The knowledge he accumulated from this methodical and painstaking research was truly amazing as was his ability to easily recall this information for his audience. When Hodges quoted someone in class, he would always give you author, title, and year of publication. The man was a walking bibliography.

    Hodges was not your typical professor who used PowerPoint or chalkboards. He talked to the class, lesson after lesson, tangent after tangent, quote after quote, life experience after life experience, the next always more interesting than the last until he had come full circle and given you a comprehensive, and often radical, understanding of the course material. I still have and refer to the many notes I took in his classes. My pen was always scribbling, trying to keep up with his radiant mind as he led us on a wondrous intellectual journey into the realms of politics, economics, history, and philosophy.

    From what I knew of his personal life, Hodges was something of a solitary man. He rarely, if ever, attended social events with his contemporaries and I suspect this was because he wanted to avoid the groupthink leftism that plagues most academic circles. Certainly he was a leftist himself in the most conventional understanding of the word, but Hodges was not the Marxist fundamentalist that others have made him out to be. In fact, I remember him chuckling to us that a Marxist is only what he “wanted” people to believe of him. To get where you need to go, Hodges often told us, sometimes you have to signal left before turning right, and sometimes you have to signal right before turning left.

    Hodges was not the type of man to rely on generic categorizations, but he styled himself an anarcho-syndicalist along the lines of Mikhail Bakunin and Abraham Guillen. He was not an advocate of big government and he was against the Marxist understanding of the State as being the solution, not part of the problem. Left-wing or right-wing politics did no much matter to Hodges because they were, in his opinion, wings of the same bird of prey. He did share Marx’s strong belief in dialectical materialism and would often tell us that if you wanted to understand politics, then never forget to follow the golden rule of politics—follow the gold! Hodges was also an outspoken advocate of liberty and freedom who, at the same time, recognized these principles were worthless without power. “There are no rights,” he once told us, “only powers. Without power, rights would cease to exist.” Hodges was something of a Machiavellian in his interpretation of politics as the pursuit of power. “Politics” he taught us, “is about power, who has it and how do you get it?” This realist understanding of power should not blacken the reputation of a man who was empathetic to the world around him. Hodges may not have been an idealist driven by utopian fantasies, but he was a simple man who believed in defending those who could not defend themselves.

    Whatever your opinion of Hodges or his beliefs, none can deny that he was a brilliant man, a bizarre genius if you would, who captured the imagination of students who loved him. He taught us to think for ourselves and to always look at things from the perspective of consequentiality. One of my favorite lessons of Hodges was a conclusion he shared with Marx about philosophy and human purpose. In his Theses on Feuerbach, Marx wrote, “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." Hodges thought Marx was right, consequentiality is all that matters. The people and ideas you should study are those which have impacted the world and done something to change it for good or for worse. Those who waste their lives studying the abstract and unchangeable are destined to be inconsequential themselves. I doubt Hodges made too many friends in the philosophy department with this pragmatic worldview.

    My fondest memories of Hodges include the time I visited him during office hours and found him sleeping on the ground. When he heard me come in, he sprung to his feet like a laughing teenager and said, “You caught me!” I also chuckle now when I recall his standard first lecture of the semester in which he purposely scared away the close-minded by delivering a frightfully radical diatribe. The friendship I built with Dr. Hodges was very special to me and I was fortunate enough to share a few meals with him at the Pitaria where we discussed life, women, and why no business in the world would ever sell indestructible socks. Dr. Hodges was truly a remarkable professor, and as other students have said of the man, I just flat-out really liked the guy.

    When I think back on my time at Florida State University, I will forever remember the image of this tall, thin man with a white beard and a crooked black hat, walking across campus in the austere clothes he wore every day. There goes a true political philosopher, I would say to myself, there goes a consequential man who is leaving his mark on the world. Consequentiality is truly all that matters, Dr. Hodges. Thank you for teaching this to me.

    Nick Drummond
    Student of Dr. Hodges, 2001-2004

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Nick: I very much appreciate what you’ve written. I think you’re wrong to get offended, though, by what the journalist has written and what I’ve written. No one’s sullied by a balanced appraisal.

    UD

  5. Nick Drummond Says:

    Margaret: My issue was not with you or the journalist, but with the blogger comments that appeared on the original article in the Tallahassee Democrat (online). It upset me to see his reputation tarnished by people who never met him.

  6. Nick Drummond Says:

    The ironic thing is…Hodges wouldn’t give a damn what anyone said about him.

  7. Dubravko Kakarigi Says:

    Thank you Nick for your write-up of Don Hodges. I lost contact with Don many years ago but I too loved him, not as a student (I never was his student), but as a comrade. We spent many hours discussing things in my homeland, former Yugoslavia, during the wars of the 90s about which he had been so knowledgeable about.

  8. Paul Mercken Says:

    Who can mail me a photograph of my regretted and flamboyant colleague at the FSU philosophy Department Donald Clark Hodges?

  9. Paul Mercken Says:

    My mail address is hpfmercken@gmail.com

  10. Mary T. Dailey Says:

    I, too, was a student of Hodges, and felt the same way as Nick Drummond.
    I was a completely conservative South Georgia wife and mother, but he convinced me to be open minded, look for verification, and look carefully at Marx.
    Since I was an Anthropologist going for the Social Philosophy area, much of what he said made good sense to me.
    Many times since then (80s) I have changed my views with new information and wished that more people could see the world as radicals ( get to the root). I am now 90 , and continue to see things in his teachings that make sense.
    HArd to find anyone who agrees!!!

  11. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Mary: Many thanks for the comment! UD

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