When not commenting on world matters, the author is professor emeritus of philosophy at Manhattan College.  He has been chair of the Philosophy Department at Manhattan College, professor of liberal arts and philosophy and director of liberal arts at The Juilliard School, professor and head of philosophy at Penn State-University Park, professor and chair of philosophy at the University of Colorado, Denver, and director of graduate interdisciplinary programs in humanities and social science at the latter university.  He is the author and editor of several books on Social and Political Philosophy, Social Theory, and Ethics.  He has been the co-editor of the journal, Contemporary Pragmatism.  Stanford University Press published his most recent book, Transcendence: On Self-Determination and Cosmopolitanism.

Several readers have asked about the origin of my last name, Aboulafia.  My father’s family is Sephardic, descendants of the Jewish peoples who settled in what is today Spain and Portugal.  (Sometimes the term Sephardic is used to refer to Jewish peoples who are from Middle Eastern countries.)  My father’s ancestors spoke a form of Spanish known as Ladino, which combined Spanish and Hebrew.  The name itself is probably derived from Arabic.  I am told that it means father of well-being, vitality, or health. (So, I am not going to argue about it….)


Books authored or edited by Mitchell Aboulafia

Transcendence: On Self-Determination and Cosmopolitanism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010).

The Cosmopolitan Self: George Herbert Mead and Continental Philosophy (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001, 2006).

The Mediating Self: Mead, Sartre, and Self-Determination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986, 1992).

The Self-Winding Circle: A Study of Hegel’s System, in the series: Modern Concepts of Philosophy, founding editor, Marvin Farber (St. Louis: W. H. Green, 1982).

Habermas and Pragmatism, co-editor and contributor (London: Routledge Press, 2002).

Philosophy, Social Theory, and the Thought of George Herbert Mead, editor and contributor, in the series: Philosophy of the Social Sciences (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991).



11 thoughts

  1. Hello,
    Most people have never heard of Ladino. My daughter was being interviewed on a radio program in Barcelona and when she referred to “Ladino,” the interviewer politely offered “Latino.” Ah, well.

    My daughter is a harpist and performs a lot of Sephardic music with Ladino titles and verses. She also plays a lot of Celtic music, the hot thing in Isreal today.

    You might be able to download a free Ladino title from her web site,

    She is also involved in using music for healing. I don’t know how to add a scan of a recent magazine article about this work.

    I hope that you don’t mind that she went to The Manhattan School of Music.

    Paul Staneslow

  2. Hello. Just thought you’d be interested to know that “lafiya” was a Hausa word I learned in my Peace Corps stint in Nigeria — it was always the positive answer to ritual greeting questions such as how’s it going, how’s your mother, how’s your work, etc. Funny that it was often difficult to get hospital patients from that culture to give helpful responses to medical questions. “Lafiya” was the polite and constant reponse to such questions.

  3. Thanks for leading me here. I studied Dewey and Mead with Joe Flay in the Penn State Philosophy Dept back in the early 1960s, and both left a lasting impression. After a long detour, I returned to both of them about 10 years ago, working on a new line of applied political theory. Working with my old comrade, Tom Hayden, in setting up the ‘Progressives for Obama’ project, is one small piece of it. I’ll look at this more thoroughly.

  4. Hi I’ve put together a ‘mashup’ of speeches from MLK and Obama which you might be interested in listening too. I believe that this is a new ‘idea/concept’ combining music and speeches into social commentary – although I might be wrong. Would appreciate your thoughts – you can listen here on

  5. hello
    Aboulafia in the north african arabic dialect means:
    father of health and was given as to important ministers and officials in the musleim kings courts, when spain was under musleim rule it was given among others to many local jews too.
    my ancestors for example where originally named Halevy (that was a commun sephardic name), and to that Aboulafia was added. later Halevy was left out.


  6. hey, just read the post about your name, and i thought i’d mention that Aboulafia is the name of the computer in “foucault’s pendulum” by umberto eco, and it’s a name that has roots in the kaballah, I believe.

  7. Dear Mr. Aboulafia<

    Found your post on Obama’s pragmatism on TPM and checked out your site. Just want to thank you for this very insightful and downright helpful post.

    Yours sincerely,

    Patricia Eakins

  8. I had a next door neighbor once named Aboulafia (San Francisco, Jones St., if they are family) — and I happened to be looking at some data from the census bureau, on the frequency of last names. “Hayes”, a nearby street, is 100, but a kind of remarkable thing happens around the 700th entry — you stop finding anything familiar at all. I checked and Aboulafia and it is something like bottom 10, I was amazed to see something recognizable down there, with the “Aalderinks” and “Aarsvolds”. And then to see this blog come up as a google reader recommendation!

  9. You are the second Aboulafia I’ve encountered.

    Did you know Louis?

    (From Wikipedia) Louis Abolafia (1941 (Manhattan) – November 1995) was an artist who ran for President of the United States under the Nudist Party on the Hippie ‘Love Ticket’ various times in the 1960s and onward. He ran against Richard Nixon in 1968 as the naked Hippie “love candidate” with the slogan: “What Have I Got To Hide?” Abolafia had previously run in 1968 under the Cosmic Love Party, even then with the slogan “What have I got to hide?”

    The son of a New York City florist, Abolafia coined the phrase, “Make love, not war!” and was part of the Greenwich Village art scene in the 1960s. In this capacity, he organized “love-ins” and “happenings” that combined music, poetry and audience participation, inspiring the New York press to crown him “The Love King.” He became a sort of hippie poster-boy.

    Abolafia inspired the creation of the Exotic Erotic Ball in 1979 in San Francisco, which is held annually to the present day.

    Abolafia was a “descendent of the Abolafias — writers of the Kabbala”

    He died of a drug overdose in 1995.

    Easy way to explain Ladino: The Spanish equivalent of Yiddish

  10. I think your posts are very interesting, but they’re nearly impossible to read, since the panel on the right shifts up and down constantly. I think this is caused by the “Philosophy Carousel” showing things of different sizes, which in turn shifts the whole panel up and down. Very distracting.

  11. Just a quick note to say thank you so much for your post about academic productivity syndrome. I’m an independent scholar and disabled, so I come up against this problem an awful lot because of having a gap here and there in my CV due to medical treatments. I read and participate as much as I can but I can’t always right because of my disabilities especially as they do generate and it’s something I felt badly about because I know I’m supposed to be productive and this really help me put a frame around my situation. All the best sir.

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