200 Days in the Life of the College

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wittgenstein with a sand wedge

By Chip Larsen ’13

Bob Simon arrives at the Hamilton Golf Course at precisely 3:30 p.m. The Marjorie and Robert W. McEwen Professor of Philosophy is proudly sporting a Hamilton golf cap, shirt and bag. He is an assistant coach for Hamilton’s team, and even with his busy academic schedule, he plays several times a week. According to Simon, golf is “the most difficult sport,” but he enjoys it because “you’re in beautiful surroundings, there’s a big creative element involved in meeting the challenge of the sport, and it’s a great way to get to know people.”

It’s easy to get to know Simon during a short round together. He is genial and easygoing, discussing college football and the philosophy of Wittgenstein with equal ease. Simon has published three editions of Fair Play, a book exploring the relationship among sports, philosophy and society. “Sports to me represents artificial challenges,” Simon says. “You learn about yourself by coming up against these challenges. In philosophy, we test our views on serious issues by facing criticism, but in golf we also test ourselves physically and mentally by meeting difficult challenges within the structure of a game.”

Simon has been teaching philosophy at Hamilton since 1968, following a year at Lafayette, his alma mater. When asked why he has remained through 42 Clinton winters, Simon credits Hamilton’s students, faculty and athletics. “The students here are great,” he says, “and I’ve learned at least as much about philosophy from my colleagues here as I did from as my grad school courses. And my wife and I follow Hamilton’s two basketball teams, which really makes the winter season enjoyable.”


Then there’s the fact that Golf Digest has ranked the Utica area among the best in America for golf. That, Simon grins, “doesn’t hurt, either.”