Roslyn Weiss

Roslyn Weiss is the Clara H. Stewardson Professor of Philosophy at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. She earned her doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University in 1982 and a Master's degree in Jewish Studies from Baltimore Hebrew University in 1992. Her fields of expertise are Ancient Greek Philosophy and Medieval Jewish Philosophy. She has published four books on Plato, most recently, Philosophers in the ‘Republic’: Plato’s Two Paradigms (Cornell University Press, 2012), and more than 40 scholarly articles on Greek and Jewish philosophy. She has lectured widely in the United States, as well as in Canada, England, Israel, Belgium, Germany, Greece, and Japan. Her current project is a translation into English of Hasdai Crescas's Or Hashem, to be published by the Hackmey Hebrew Classical Library, an imprint of Harvard and Tel Aviv University presses.

A Violin Playing Second Fiddle: Aaron's Unique Virtue

Epictetus in his Enchiridion (Chapter 46) attributes to Socrates the admirable ability to bear, with grace and without resentment, being overlooked: “For remember that thus Socrates universally avoided all ostentation. And when persons came to him asking to be introduced to philosophers, he took them and introduced them; so well did he bear being overlooked.” In the opening paragraph of Confucius’s Analects the same virtue is warmly commended. Despite having no simple name, neither in Greek nor in Chinese nor in Hebrew, it is a virtue clearly exhibited by the biblical figure of Aaron.

In this lecture, Aaron’s virtue will be distinguished from humility, which is the biblical virtue attributed to Moses—someone who is never overlooked and who therefore has no need to bear being overlooked—as well as from excessive self-effacement. It will also be contrasted with its contrary, self-promotion.

Aaron, like all biblical figures, is flawed. Nevertheless, a close analysis of the biblical text will reveal Aaron as someone both exemplary and unique. The virtue he possesses is one that can belong only to people worthy of the recognition denied them.