Obituary: Garbis Kortian

Garbis Kortian, one of the founders of the Zoryan Institute, recently passed away in Vienna, Austria. He was 70 years old.

“We are saddened by the loss of a colleague and a friend,” said K.M. Greg Sarkissian, president of the Zoryan Institute. “Garbis was a visionary, and as a co-founder of Zoryan, was one of the main conceptualizers of the institute’s mission. His hallmark was to always challenge conventional thinking on any subject.”

Kortian received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Vienna in 1966. He was a professor of philosophy at the University of Montreal from 1968-95. He then moved to Paris and taught periodically at the University of Vienna until his death. He was the author of two major studies on metacritique and on Kant, both published by Cambridge University Press, one of the world’s leading scholarly presses. He also wrote and edited several other books, one of them on the art of Arto Tchakmakchian.

“Garbis achieved a truly trans-Atlantic reputation,” said Khachig Tololyan, professor of comparative literature at Wesleyan University and editor of “Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies.”

“His Metacritique was translated into French and many of his essays into German, and his lectures were heard everywhere, from Johns Hopkins to Vienna. He served as a bridge and a catalyst for relations between French, German, and Anglophone philosophers. And always he worried that Armenians and Armenia lacked interest in philosophy.”

At its seminal first colloquium, held in Cambridge in 1984, Kortian opened the subject of “What Is to Be Asked?” with an extended philosophical discussion on what questions are of “real existential concern and interest.” He wanted to update “the notion of the intellectual” and of “modernity” to advance the diaspora’s self-understanding. His conclusion was that “what characterizes the intellectual in contemporary times is one trait above all others: critique…in the name of truth.”


  1. I am very thanksfull for Garbis Kortians introduction into philosophy! He will be on my series of philosophers paintings: If someone has a nice photography, please send it to

    Tnx to Garbis and tnx to anyone providing a nice foto of him (until February 2012)

    Anton Herzl

  2. He was a very good friend of mine and of my family. Sad he passed away so much too early! Many times we enjoyed his visits in Percha/Starnberg and in our house at lake Plansee/Tyrol. Many good and deep talkings we had. I just found his telegram from Montréal, on the occasion of the death of my father, Friedrich Alfred Schmid Noerr, in 1969. Rest in peace, Garbis!

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