A good man gone. I can't say "too soon" because, at 85, he lived a long life. But he will be missed by many.
I'm embarrassed to say that he passed last April (2014) and I just took note of it.
of the things I like to do with my free time is attend open to the
public lectures at Princeton. Even though I disagree with Robert P.
George on social issues, as it relates to the study of the American
Founding, religion, history, politics & philosophy (the
interdisciplinary I study and blog about) his James Madison Program is the best Princeton offers in this area.
There are other good ones too, for instance the University Center for Human Values.
And sometimes the two projects will promote lectures and conferences
jointly. But for what interests me, the James Madison Program is the
And that's where I first encountered Professor
Sigmund. He was, among other things, a top John Locke scholar. When
discussing Locke, Sigmund was adamant in his assertion that Locke was,
despite protests to the contrary a "Christian."
that assertion depends on what it means to be a "Christian." When after a
conference I asked Prof. Sigmund whether he thought Locke believed in
the Arian heresy, his eyes lit up with excitement as he was happy that
someone was interested enough in the controversy to even know to ask
that question. He said yes, pointing to the scholarship of John Marshall of Johns Hopkins University as confirming the point.
begs the question, though, what it means to be a "Christian." Dr.
Sigmund's answer paralleled Locke's: You don't necessarily have to
believe in the Trinity; rather hold that Jesus was Messiah or central to
your faith. So Trinitarians, Arians, Socinians, Mormons, Jehovah's
Witnesses are all "Christians" as it were.
vehemently disagreed with the assertions of Leo Strauss and his
followers that Locke was some kind of esoteric Hobbesian atheist. (I
don't know as much on Thomas Hobbes as I do Locke, but I don't think
even Hobbes was a secret atheist). Locke was an esoteric something, but
not, at least not provably an atheist.
likely as noted above, Locke was a secret heretic (unitarian) writing in
a context when the public promotion of heresy could get one executed
(something Locke, thankfully helped deliver us from).
But when moderating the controversy publicly, Dr. Sigmund was scrupulously magnanimous.