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Noted philosopher Abraham Kaplan was born in Odessa, Russia, in 1918, and moved to Duluth, Minnesota, at the age of six with his family. His father was Joseph J. Kaplan, a rabbi, and his mother was Chava Kaplan. Joseph served as rabbi at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue at Third Avenue East and Fourth Street from the mid-1920s until about 1940 . While in Duluth, the family resided at 308 E. Sixth Street and at 229 E. Fourth St.
Abraham had four older sisters—Edna, Eva, Etta, and Sadie. He entered Duluth Central High School in 1931 at the age of 13. He was involved in the Stylus Club literary magazine and the Debate Team, and was chosen as captain of the Debate Team for the 1932-33 school year. He graduated from Central in 1933 at 15 years of age. Next to his yearbook photo is the caption: “A brilliant scholar, and Central’s finest orator.“
Abraham Kaplan attended Duluth Junior College for two years. While there, he and another student won the National Junior College Forensics tournament, which helped Kaplan win a full scholarship to the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, where he majored in Chemistry. Upon graduation from St. Thomas in 1937, Kaplan was able to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago with the financial assistance of some Jewish businessmen from Duluth. He studied Philosophy at Chicago from 1937 to 1940, working under Rudolf Carnap and visiting lecturer Bertrand Russell. In 1940, he transferred to UCLA and earned his PhD there in 1942.
Kaplan taught philosophy at UCLA from 1946 to 1963, and then moved to the University of Michigan where he served as a philosophy professor until 1972. Later that year, he moved to Israel where he taught at the University of Haifa. After retirement, he lectured in the U.S. He died in Los Angeles on June 19, 1993.
Kaplan authored several prestigious books, including Power and Society (1960), New World of Philosophy (1962), and In Pursuit of Wisdom (1977), and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1945 and a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1957. He was featured in the May 6, 1966, issue of Time Magazine as one of ten outstanding college teachers in the U.S. Kaplan returned to Duluth several times to lecture at UMD, the College of St. Scholastica, and the Jewish Educational Center.
Abraham Kaplan married Iona Judith Wax on November 17, 1939. They had two daughters, Karen and Jessica.