In Memoriam: Fabian Dorsch

Fabian Dorsch, an Associate Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Fribourg, died unexpectedly on February 21 at the impossibly young age of 42.

As anyone who knew him could attest, Fabian kept enormously busy as a philosopher, and it was amazing how well he juggled his numerous writing projects alongside his editorial duties, conference organizing, and grant proposals. After having received his PhD from University College London in 2005, Fabian spent time in Berkeley, Glasgow, and Paris (among other places) before taking up his position in Fribourg. Working on issues at the intersection of philosophy of mind, epistemology, and aesthetics, he had in recent years published numerous articles on imagination, hallucination, and perception. Having founded the European Society for Aesthetics in 2008, Fabian continued to serve as its secretary, and he had also served since 2012 as the editor of Estetika: the Central European Journal of Aesthetics.

At the time of his death, Fabian was completing a monograph on imagination due to be published in the Routledge New Problems in Philosophy series.   Those of us working on imagination and related issues have long been highly anticipating the publication of this monograph, and one can only hope that he left a draft close enough to completion so that the monograph will still come out next year as scheduled. He was also shepherding two co-edited volumes to completion – one on Phenomenal Presence and one on Perceptual Memory and Perceptual Imagination. As someone with pieces slated to appear in both volumes, I am no doubt biased, but I think it’s fair to say that both of these volumes too are highly anticipated and, also, that they are expected to make a significant contribution to the literature in these areas.

It was always a pleasure to talk about philosophy with Fabian – indeed, it was always a pleasure to talk about anything with Fabian – and I myself can recall numerous times in which I learned from him about topics ranging from music to history, from politics to parenthood. I know that my own thinking about imagination was positively influenced by the conversations that I had with him, and by my engagement with his work, and it’s hard to believe that I’ll never again have the benefit of his comments.

Fabian leaves behind a wife, Evgenia and son, Maxim, to whom we all send our heartfelt condolences. He will be very much missed.

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2 Comments

  1. Joel Smith

    I met Fabian in 1998 when we started the MPhil, and subsequently the PhD, together at UCL. Those were exciting times for me, and stressful. Making the transition first from undergraduate to postgraduate, then from postgraduate to teacher, was something of an emotional rollercoaster and, looking back, it feels as though half a lifetime was packed into those five or six years. Fabian, however, was a mensch, a rock. Seemingly never flustered, never worried. It was as though he had long known where his destiny lay and he was simply, and calmly going about the buisness of making it happen. His relaxed, peaceful attitude was matched by a warmth and openness that is difficult to describe. He was always at least as interested in other people and their work than he was in his own. He was friendly, caring, open minded, interested, and interesting. Very interesting. He could talk as easily about chess grandmasters, modern composers, Rembrandt, beer, cakes, and seedy London drinking dens as he could about disjunctivism, aesthetic properties, imagination, or self-consciousness.

    I have a copy of his PhD thesis sitting in my office, inherited from that other sad loss to the philosophical community, Peter Goldie. I kept meaning to return it to Fabian. He shall be very deeply missed, both as a philosopher and as a friend.

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  2. Lucy O'Brien

    Fabian came to UCL as an exchange student from Germany. He was assigned to me for undergraduate tutorials. It quickly became apparent – not least when he presented me with a 19,000 word essay – that he was already up and running as a philosopher, with his own research projects underway. Fabian went on to complete the UCL MPhil and Phd. His excellent work on imagination – and in particular the connection between agency and imagination – came out of that time. But his interests were never narrow – he had wide interests in the Philosophy of Mind and Aesthetics and outside Philosophy. He was publishing fascinating work, and I was delighted to hear that he taken over as Editor-in-Chief at Estetika. We will all poorer for his lost time as a Philosopher.

    Fabian was a man it was hard not to love – he was always engaging, open minded and warm hearted. Despite having an astonishing expertise in a wide range of subjects he was always seeking out the interests and concerns of others to work through things together. He had a charming insouciance to the way he went about life – as though everything was in hand, and as if there was always enough time. When I visited Fribourg, together with my children, they make believed that Fabian had a magic power to summon trains at will. Having been brought up by flappable me in London they did not fully realise that Fabian’s easy manner, helped by a timetable and Swiss trains was all it took.

    Fabian was a person driven by interest and not ambition, and he, literally, had time for everyone. The last time I saw him it was clear that life had given him what he wanted: a rich intellectual life, a wonderful department in Fribourg, and more than anything, an adored wife and son: Evgenia and Maxim. It is sad beyond words to think how little time he, and they, had that.

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