Philosopher Scott Arnold Passes Away

Aug. 28, 2013

Scott Arnold, a longtime friend, and someone whom we admired and respected, has passed away on Monday, August 26, 2013.  He served as a professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and has published, among other works, Marx’s Radical Critique of Capitalism (OUP 1990), The Philosophy and Economics of Market Socialism (OUP 1994) and Imposing Values (OUP 2009). Here is a memorial notice from his home department.

In 1973, Neil Scott Arnold earned a BA in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, a degree that gave him pride throughout his life (in Birmingham, he always belonged to the Penn Alumni Club). In 1979, he took a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where as a graduate student, he taught various philosophy and rhetoric courses.
 
His first job was for one-year in 1978 at Wilkes College in Pennsylvania, followed by a two-year job at St. Cloud University, 1979-1981, and a one year job at North Carolina State University, 1981-1982. In the fall of 1982, he joined the Philosophy Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he spent the next 29 years teaching, rising there to Full Professor.
 
At UAB in 1986, he won the Frederick Conner Prize at UAB in the History of Ideas. He once served as Acting Vice-President of UAB’s Senate and was chair of its Academic Affairs Committee. He served on UAB’s Core Curriculum Committee and on several Promotion and Tenure Committees.
 
In the late1980s, he worked on a book on Marx’s critique of capitalism, eventually publishing it with Oxford University Press in 1990 as Marx’s Radical Critique of Capitalism. In it, he challenged the claim that Marxism works in theory but not in practice, arguing that it does not even work in theory.
 
In 1990-1991, he left Birmingham for Stanford, California for a one-year, paid fellowship at the Hoover Institute, which helped him write his second book, published in 1994 by Oxford University Press, The Philosophy and Economics of Market Socialism. In it, he argued that socialism would be just as exploitative as capitalism, if not more so, especially as central planning by large, centralized governments would violate many individual liberties.
 
He was twice a visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center of Bowling Green State University and gave talks at the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University and the Murphy Institute at Tulane University.
 
Scott worked on his last book, also published by Oxford University Press, right up until the beginning of his neurological tragedy.  Imposing Values: Liberalism and Regulation (2009) was the work of a mature scholar, one sure of his views and his targets, with big themes meticulously argued and supported. Its central target was the tendency of modern, big governments to restrict individual choice through regulation and taxes in order to uphold certain values. Scott opposed such tendencies. Reviewer Daniel Shapiro of West Virginia University summarized, “Arnold’s book belongs on every liberal’s bookshelf. Quite simply there is no book like it—a philosophically acute, exhaustive analysis of the classical-modern liberal debate about regulation, which ends up siding, in an original way, with classical liberalism.”
 
In the Philosophy Department at UAB, Chair Gregory Pence says, “Scott was a key member and is missed. He showed up every day, worked hard on his scholarship and courses, and was always eager to talk politics and ideas.”
 
In the Birmingham area, he was a mainstay of soccer games for hundreds of youth. For many years, he ran a master spreadsheet that allocated officials and teams to various sites. He himself officiated at hundreds of games and taught others to do the same. Both his sons grew up to be excellent soccer players.
 
Scott inspired careers in philosophy for several UAB graduates. Rhonda Smith, who now teaches at the Air Force Academy, wrote, “I am very grateful to have had Scott in my life.  He was the teacher who first inspired me to take more philosophy courses, and he became something much more important, a mentor and a friend.” Alan Nichols, who teaches at Georgia Highlands College, wrote, “He was my teacher in Intro to Philosophy. I loved his teaching style and took every class I could with him. He was a huge influence on me, in developing my interest in both political philosophy and in libertarianism. I didn't necessarily appreciate his lessons at the time, but I do so as time passes.”