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April 22, 1951

The New York Times summarized a philosophical squabble at Vassar that had received considerable attention:

Plato vs. Spencer: For months the Philosophy Department at Vassar College has been rocked by a philosophical but violent dispute. Associate Professor Lewis S. Feuer, a disciple of the English philosopher of evolution, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), felt that the department’s stress on Plato (circa 427-347 B. C.) was old hat. Assistant Professor Joseph Katz defended Plato. Last week it was reported that Professor Feuer had attempted literally to put into effect the Spencerian doctrine of ‘the survival of the fittest’—by punching Professor Katz in the nose. Plato’s “good life governed by reason” triumphed; Professor Feuer and his departmental supporters resigned. At the week-end a Vassar student, asked what the college thought of the un-philosophical clash, quoted Plato, ‘No human thing is of serious importance.’”

The Years