Professor X was a good teacher and colleague. Affable and self-effacing, he was well-liked by all. He was quick with a joke and to light up your smoke — at least back in the good old days when some of us smoked in our offices and the American Philosophical Association hosted a 'Smoker' at their annual conventions. But as the years wore on, Professor X, bereft of the stimulation of first-rate minds, became lazy and given to resting on his laurels. An early book, based on his dissertation, showed considerable promise, but a fair judge would have to conclude that he buried his talents rather than using them. He published nothing in the professional journals, sometimes opining that no one read them anyway. Like many, he became too comfortable. Tenure, often advertised as a bulwark of academic freedom, became in his case, as in so many others, an inducement to inactivity. He never progressed much beyond the level of his dissertation.
His real life was elsewhere, in family and friends and such hobbies as woodworking. Once, emerging from a year-long sabbatical cushioned on both ends by long summers with no teaching, he had nothing to show for his release time except a fine bookcase he had built. Like many of the long-tenured and unproductive, he was given to professional envy. When the distinguished philosopher Y came and read a paper for a paltry $200 honorarium, X questioned whether Y was worth so much especially given that this was a paper Y had read before other departments. X's scholarly inactivity was not for the sake of service elsewhere in the academic community: he had a knack for avoiding administrivia and such other academic chores as commenting on papers at conferences.
But now he has passed from our midst, and who among us does not have faults and limitations? Professor X's kindness and collegiality will surely remain in our memories. He will be missed.
Being a nice guy covers a multitude of sins. I find it impossible not to feel sad over the passing of the gentlemanly and mild-mannered Alan Colmes who died at age 66. But he really was a foolish and benighted leftist. Better Right than nice. From a 2010 post of mine:
This [the racism charge] is now the party line of the Dems and toe it they will as witness the otherwise somewhat reasonable and mild-mannered Alan Colmes in this segment, Political Hatred in America, from The O'Reilly Factor. Colmes begins his rant around 6:07 with the claim that "what is driving this [the Tea Party protests] is racism." It looks as if Colmes is under party discipline; otherwise, how could so intelligent and apparently decent a man say something so blatantly false and scurrilous? That something so silly and vicious should emerge from the mouth of a twit like Janeane Garofalo is of course nothing to wonder at. What idiocies won't HollyWeird liberals spout? But Alan Colmes? If we remember that for the Left the end justifies the means, however, things begin to fall in place. The Left will do anything to win. Slanders, smears, shout-downs . . . all's fair in love and war. Leftists understand and apply what I call the Converse Clausewitz Principle: Politics is war conducted by other means.
UPDATE (2/24). A Slate leftard attacks the dead man:
Colmes was the most absurd, useless, and mocked television personality in America for many years, precisely because he was nice. In the context of Fox News, being a nice guy—and a “liberal” nice guy at that—meant being a buffoon, and a patsy. Colmes not only played the part to perfection—he defined it.
I have been a fan of Nat Hentoff ever since I first read him in the pages of Down Beat magazine way back in the '60s. He died at 91 on January 7th. My tribute to him is a repost from 4 June 2012:
A Prime Instance of Political Correctness: The Blackballing of Nat Hentoff
Nat Hentoff is a civil libertarian and a liberal in an older and respectable sense of the term. He thinks for himself and follows the arguments and evidence where they lead. So what do contemporary politically correct liberals do? They attack him. His coming out against abortion particularly infuriated them. Mark Judge comments:
Hentoff's liberal friends didn't appreciate his conversion: "They were saying, 'What's the big fuss about? If the parents had known she was going to come in this way, they would have had an abortion. So why don't you consider it a late abortion and go on to something else?' Here were liberals, decent people, fully convinced themselves that they were for individual rights and liberties but willing to send into eternity these infants because they were imperfect, inconvenient, costly. I saw the same attitude on the part of the same kinds of people toward abortion, and I thought it was pretty horrifying."
The reaction from America's corrupt fourth estate was instant. Hentoff, a Guggenheim fellow and author of dozens of books, was a pariah. Several of his colleagues at the Village Voice, which had run his column since the 1950s, stopped talking to him. When the National Press Foundation wanted to give him a lifetime achievement award, there was a bitter debate amongst members whether Hentoff should even be honored (he was). Then they stopped running his columns. You heard his name less and less. In December 2008, the Village Voice officially let him go.
When journalist Dan Rather was revealed to have poor news judgment, if not outright malice, for using fake documents to try and change the course of a presidential election, he was given a new TV show and a book deal -- not to mention a guest spot on The Daily Show. The media has even attempted a resuscitation of anti-Semite Helen Thomas, who was recently interviewed in Playboy.
By accepting the truth about abortion, and telling that truth, Nat Hentoff may be met with silence by his peers when he goes to his reward. The shame will be theirs, not his.
The third American into space, and the first to orbit the Earth, John Glenn is dead at 95. In those days American greatness was evident. America can become great again. President-Elect Trump's speech last night at the Iowa rally on his 'thank you' tour referenced Glenn and the need to revitalize the space program. A hopeful sign and nothing one could expect from a decadent Dem like Obama or Hillary.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated 53 years ago today. Here is The Byrds' tribute to the slain leader. They took a traditional song and redid the lyrics. Here Willie Nelson does a great job with the traditional song. You Dylan aficionados will want to give a listen to young Bob's rendition of the old song.
I was in the eighth grade when Kennedy was gunned down. We were assembled in an auditorium for some reason when the principal came in and announced that the president had been shot. The date was November 22, 1963. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was seated behind my quondam inamorata, Christine W. My love for her was from afar, like that of Don Quixote for the fair Dulcinea, but at the moment I was in close physical proximity to her, studying the back of her blouse through which I could make out the strap of her training bra . . . .
Since those far-off and fabulous days of 'Camelot,' we have learned a lot about Kennedy's dark side. But every man has his 'wobble,' and who among us would want to be exposed to the full light of day? He was a boyhood hero of mine, "the intrepid skipper of the PT 109," as I described him in a school essay. My assessment of him has been dialed downward over the years, but there were traces of greatness about him. He was a resolute commie fighter and a lifetime member of the NRA and Second Amendment defender. In those days, a decent, patriotic American could be a Democrat.
And if it weren't for his inspiration we wouldn't have beaten the Evil Empire in the space race.
It was a tale of two nonentities, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. Both were little men who wanted to be big men. Oswald, acting alone, shot Kennedy. Ruby, acting alone, shot Oswald. That is the long and the short of it. For details, I refer you to Bugliosi.
And let's not forget that it was a commie who murdered Kennedy.
Professor Dale Jacquette died suddenly and unexpectedly at his home in August of this year at the age of 63.
I remember Dale from the summer of 1984. We were fellow seminarians in Hector-Neri Castañeda's National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at Indiana University in Bloomington. Dale struck me at the time as a classic introvert who spoke little but thought much. He made for a welcome contrast with some overconfident others who were of the opposite disposition.
For a philosopher to die at 63 is to die young. May his passing remind us of philosophy's muse. For "Death is the true inspiring genius, or muse of philosophy." (Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation)
On March 13, America lost one of the greatest philosophers this nation has ever produced. Hilary Putnam died of cancer at the age of 89. Those of us who had the good fortune to know Putnam as mentees, colleagues, and friends remember his life with profound gratitude and love, since Hilary was not only a great philosopher, but also a human being of extraordinary generosity, who really wanted people to be themselves, not his acolytes. But it's also good, in the midst of grief, to reflect about Hilary's career, and what it shows us about what philosophy is and what it can offer humanity. For Hilary was a person of unsurpassed brilliance, but he also believed that philosophy was not just for the rarely gifted individual. Like two of his favorites, Socrates and John Dewey (and, I'd add, like those American founders), he thought that philosophy was for all human beings, a wake-up call to the humanity in us all.
John Lennon was gunned down this night in 1980 by Mark David Chapman. I remember that night well: a student of mine called me in the middle of it to report the slaying. Lennon was my least favorite Beatle due to his silly utopianism, as expressed in the lyrically inane 'Imagine,' but this tune of his from the 1965 Rubber Soul album is a gem, and more than fit to remember him by.
And I believe he penned Tomorrow Never Knows from the Revolver album, the best song I know of about meditation. It gives me goose bumps still, almost 50 years later.
I headed over to D. G. Myers' high-level literary weblog this afternoon only to find that its penultimate post, dated 22 July, was the last by Myers. The final entry, dated 29 September, by his sister-in-law, records his death.
And then I recalled that Myers had written some friendly but trenchant critiques of my amateur forays into his field. A search revealed that Myers had written five detailed entries addressing posts of mine. Did I ever thank him? If memory serves, I never did, and I deeply regret that now. I probably wasn't aware of some of them.
Until he hung hanged himself, that is. Williams, that is.
I knew who Williams was, though I have seen only two of his films, The Dead Poets' Society and Mrs. Doubtfire. From what I know of the others I have no desire to see them. The gushing over celebrities at their passing is as tolerable as it is predictable. One only wishes that people had better judgment about who is really worthy of the highest accolades and encomia.
Here is the memorable carpe diem scene from The Dead Poets' Society. I think Dalrymple would appreciate it.
A ninety year old woman died in her home in Auburn. She had decomposed through the floor before she was found six months later. The diaries found in her belongings shed light on this lonely and brilliant mind. Watch the documentary above, and read further excerpts from her diaries below.
Bobby Fischer, supreme master of the 64 squares, died on this date in 2008, at age 64.
The day after he died I received this lovely note from my old friend Tom Coleman:This is a death in the family. I thought of you the moment I heard
the news this morning. Though not a talented player myself, at only
eight years old, six years younger than he, I marvelled at his
prowess as others did over Micky Mantle's. I never knew bitterness
toward my betters at either sports or chess. Many of us who were
neither as brilliant or disturbed as he still felt his agony, even
as a half-talented music student can feel Beethoven's agony even
after centuries. He had no heirs in the flesh; genius is no
evolutionary advantage. All brilliance points to transcendence and
whispers of immortality.
For Americans of a certain age and a certain bent, it is indeed as if a relative has died. Old Tom must have been consorting with Calliope when he penned his concluding line.
Via Feser comes word of the passing of E. J. Lowe, prominent contemporary metaphysician. Only 63! That's young for a philosopher. Some will disagree, but I've heard it said, and I agree, that philosophy is an old man's game, and if the country of old age begins at 60, Lowe had just taken his first baby steps into it. But he made a contribution and all who labor in these vineyards should be grateful.
So carpe diem my friends, the hour of death is near for young and old alike. And how would you like death to find you? In what condition, and immersed in which activity? Contemplating the eternal or stuck in the mud of the mundane or lost in the diaspora of sensuous indulgence?
For some of us the harvest years come late and we hope for many such years in which to reap what we have sown, but we dare not count on them. For another and greater Reaper is gaining on us and we cannot stay the hand that wields the scythe that will cut us down.
Albert Camus, one of the luminaries of French existentialism, died on this day in 1960, in a car crash. He was 46. Had he lived, he might have become a Christian. Or so it seems from Howard Mumma, Conversations with Camus. This second-hand report is worth considering, although it must be consumed cum grano salis. See also Camus the Christian?
Csezlaw Milosz also draws attention to Camus' religious disposition.
Czeslaw Milosz, "The Importance of Simone Weil" in Emperor of the Earth: Modes of Eccentric Vision (University of California Press, 1977), p. 91:
Violent in her judgments and uncompromising, Simone Weil was, at least by temperament, an Albigensian, a Cathar; this is the key to her thought. She drew extreme conclusions from the Platonic current in Christianity. Here we touch upon hidden ties between her and Albert Camus. The first work by Camus was his university dissertation on St. Augustine. Camus, in my opinion, was also a Cathar, a pure one, ['Cathar' from Gr. katharos, pure] and if he rejected God it was out of love for God because he was not able to justify Him. The last novel written by Camus, The Fall, is nothing else but a treatise on Grace — absent grace — though it is also a satire: the talkative hero, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, who reverses the words of Jesus and instead of "Judge not and ye shall not be judged: gives the advice "Judge, and ye shall not be judged," could be, I have reason to suspect, Jean-Paul Sartre.
1. "Under his father's tutelage, one of Geach's earliest philosophical influences was the metaphysician J.M.E. McTaggart, who infamously argues in his 1908 book The Unreality of Time for, well, the unreality of time." This title is not a book but an article that appeared in the journal Mind (17.68: 457–474), in 1908.
McTaggart presents a full dress version of the famous argument in his 1927 magnum opus, The Nature of Existence, in Chapter XXXIII, located in volume II.
McTaggart's argument for the unreality of time is one of the great arguments in the history of metaphysics, an argument as important and influential as the Eleatic Zeno's arguments against motion, St. Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God and F. H. Bradley's argument against relations in his 1893 Appearance and Reality, Book I, Chapter III. All four arguments have the interesting property of being rejected as unsound by almost all philosophers, philosophers who nonetheless differ wildly among themselves as to where the arguments go wrong. Careful study of these arguments is an excellent introduction to the problems of metaphysics. In particular, the analytic philosophy of time in the 20th century would not be unfairly described as a very long and very detailed series of footnotes to McTaggart's great argument.
2. "Along with Aquinas and McTaggart (whose system he presents in his 1982 book Truth, Love, and Immortality), Geach's main philosophical heroes were Aristotle, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Gottlob Frege." My copy of Truth, Love and Immortality shows the University of California Press (Berkeley and Los Angeles) as the publisher and the publication year as 1979. The frontispiece features an unsourced quotation from McTaggart:
The longer I live, the more I am convinced of the reality of three things -- truth, love and immortality.
I thought of Carolyn in September and I thought I ought to check the obituaries. She died September 20th at age 90, her longevity as if in counterpoise to the short tenures of her main men, wildman Neal Cassady, the Dean Moriarty of Kerouac's 1957 On the Road, and the brooding Jack Kerouac himself. Carolyn played the stabilizer to the mania of the one and the melancholy of the other. Both quit the sublunary before the '60s had run their course. The tale of Jack's end has been told too many times, though I will tell it again on 21 October, the 44th anniversary of his exit from the "slaving meat wheel." Neal's demise is less frequently recounted.
died in February of 1968, also of substance abuse, having quaffed a nasty
concotion of pulque and Seconals, while walking the railroad tracks near San Miguel de
Allende, Mexico. Legend has it that Cassady had been counting the ties and that
his last word was "64, 928." (Cf. William Plummer, The Holy Goof: A
Biography of Neal Cassady, Paragon, 1981, pp. 157-158.)
Carolyn kept the beat while the wildmen soloed, seeking ecstasy where it cannot be found.
May all who sincerely seek beatitude find it. Kerouac: "I want to be sincere." May Jack with his visions of Gerard, of Cody, finally enjoy the ultimate beat vision, the visio beata.
I met Dallas Willard only once, at an A. P. A. meeting in San Francisco in the early '90s. I had sent him a paper on Husserl and Heidegger and we had plans to get together over dinner to discuss it. Unfortunately, the plans fell through when a son of Willard showed up. But we did speak briefly and I still recall his kindness and his words, "I'll help you any way I can." In the few minutes I was with him I became aware of his depth and his goodness.
My only serious engagement with Professor Willard's work was via a long and intricate paper I published in Philosophia Christi, "The Moreland-Willard-Lotze Thesis on Being," vol. 6, no. 1 (2004), pp. 27-58.
We have it on good authority that death is the muse of philosophy. The muse reminds us that our time is short and to be well used. I expect Willard would approve of the following lines from St Augustine's Confessions, Book VI, Chapter 11, Ryan trans.:
Let us put away these vain and empty concerns. Let us turn ourselves only to a search for truth. Life is hard, and death is uncertain. It may carry us away suddenly. In what state shall we leave this world? Where must we learn what we have neglected here? Or rather, must we not endure punishment for our negligence? What if death itself should cut off and put an end to all care, along with sensation itself? This too must be investigated.
Lawrence Auster died early this Good Friday morning. May he rest in peace and come to know what here below one can only believe. Here is Laura Wood's obituary. Auster's site will remain online and is well-worth reading. I must say, however, that I consider him an extremist and share Steve Burton's misgivings about his work. Auster's attacks on distinguished fellow conservatives are often wrongheaded and always tactically foolish, demonstrating as they do a failure to realize that politics is a practical business and that the best and the better are often the enemy of the good. We need a broad coalition to defeat leftists and Islamists. A certain amount of intramural squabbling is to be expected and may even be healthy, but not if it ramps up to internecine warfare. Dennis Prager is not the enemy because he is optimistic about e pluribus unum while you are not. Know who the enemy is.
With Auster and other ultra conservatives, however, it seems one can never be too far Right, and that one who grants the least scintilla of validity to any liberal notion is just as much an enemy as the hardest hard-core left-winger. From a practical point of view, such extremism is profoundly stupid. The ultras will end up talking to themselves in their narrow enclaves and have no effect on the wider culture all the while feeding their false sense of their own significance.
Ideological extremism is a fascinating topic. There are leftists for whom one cannot be too far Left, rightists for whom one cannot be too far Right, and, as we have recently observed in the case of Thomas Nagel and his latest book, atheistic naturalists for whom one cannot be too much of an atheist and too much of a naturalist.
Poor Nagel: atheist, naturalist, liberal. But still too reasonable and balanced and philosophical for the fanatics and hard-liners of scientistic ideology. Shunned by his own kind, Nagel must turn to theists, anti-naturalists, and conservatives for appreciation and serious discussion.
Here is my favorite Koch quotation: ''Listen, I love Boston,'' Mr. Koch said. ''It's a wonderful town to come up and visit, on occasion, but it's not New York. Boston is a very nice town, but compared to New York it's Podunk.''
That's Koch for you. Outspoken. Testicular. Not that I agree with the jibe. I'd take the Athens of America over the Big Apple any day. I was offered full funding to attend graduate school both in New York and in Boston. So in the spring of '73 I made the transcontinental trek from Los Angeles by thumb and 'dog' to check out both places. The dismality and crowdedness and dirtiness of NYC with smack addicts on the nod in the subway decided the question for me.
My Boston years were blissful. A great, compact, vibrant town, the hub of the universe and the Eastern hub of the running boom. A great town to be young in. But when it comes time to own things and pay taxes, the West is the best, but not so far West that you end up on the Left Coast. (Trivia question: which member of the 27 Club uttered the italicized words and in which song?)
Koch was a species of liberal that scarcely exists anymore on the national stage: a liberal, as he liked to put it, “with sanity.” The sanity acted as a prophylactic against the sort of racialist identity politics that helped make the mayoralty of David Dinkins, Koch’s successor, such a conspicuous disaster. It also underwrote his relative independence as a political actor. Thus Koch, in 2004, crossed party lines to endorse George W. Bush, not so much because he agreed with all of Dubya’s platform but because he understood that that United States was under threat from a mortal, if also amorphous, enemy, and Koch was an unembarrassed patriot.
A sane liberal. A dying breed. 'Sane liberal' is becoming an oxymoron and 'liberal loon' a pleonasm.
I was saddened to hear from Malcolm Pollack just now that Bob Koepp, who commented extensively at both our sites, died on 29 February of this year. Ever the gentleman, Bob contributed to the discussions at the old Powerblogs site and here at the Typepad incarnation of MavPhil. He had an M. A. in philosophy and studied under Wilfrid Sellars. He was such a mild-mannered man that I sometimes wondered if my more acerbic asseverations offended him. His comments are here. Bob will be remembered. My condolences to his family and friends. As the obituary below says, for Bob, "the questions mattered more than the answers." He exemplified the philosophical spirit.
On a lighter note, I once made mention of Maynard G. Krebs, the Bob Denver beatnik character from the 1959-1963 sitcom, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Koepp remarked that back then he thought Krebs the quintessence of cool.
Koepp, Robert V. Our beloved Bob, age 60, of St. Paul, passed away on February 29. He was diagnosed just three months earlier with lung cancer, which he faced with admirable strength, caring above all for the comfort of those he loved. He is mourned by mother Helen (Rohe) Koepp of Hutchinson, siblings Reinhard of Tarpon Springs, FL; Ken (Jan) of Hot Springs Village, AR; Karen of Minneapolis; Marla (Bob) Lichtsinn of Fountain Valley, CA; Vern (Cindy) of Rush City; Irene (Dave) Schwartz of Litchfield; Marty of Minneapolis; Aaron (Laury) of Fort Collins, CO; Esther of Eagan; and Joanne (Randy) Fischer of Wausau, WI, as well as other dear relatives and friends. He was predeceased by father Reinhard W. Koepp and grandparents Herman and Augusta Koepp and Walter and Anna Rohe.
Bob, whose abiding wish was for racial equality, believed deeply in loving God and your neighbor. He grew up in Brownton, was a lifelong student of philosophy of science, ethics and bioethics (Gustavus, U Pitt, U of M), and coordinated oncology research at Children's Hospital, Minneapolis. Bob also loved nature and fishing, helping family members with jobs and projects of all kinds, especially woodworking, and music, especially Bach. He was astoundingly bright, and for him, in life or in energetic dialogue, the questions mattered more than the answers. He was selfless, generous and exemplary in so many ways, and he will be dearly missed. A memorial gathering is being planned. Remember him by supporting racial equality or nature organizations, or by doing a random act of kindness.
Janis Joplin. Date of Death: 4 October 1970. Cause: heroin overdose. She was at Monterey too. My favorite is her rendition of Kris Krisofferson's Me and Bobby McGee. Otherwise, I didn't much like her vocal stylings: too screechy and screamy. Dead 42 years, she's been dead longer than she lived.
Tomorrow is the 57th anniversary of the death of James Dean. When the young Dean crashed his low slung silver Porsche Spyder on a lonely California highway on September 30, 1955, he catapulted a couple of unknowns into the national spotlight. One of them was Ernie Tripke, one of two California Highway Patrol officers who arrived at the scene. He died in 2010 at the age of 88. But what ever happened to Donald Turnupseed, the driver who turned in front of the speeding Dean, having failed to see him coming? His story is here. In exfoliation of the theme that "speed kills" I present the following for your listening pleasure:
I wasn't aware of this until now. Williams was London Ed's teacher. I battle the former via the latter.
It came as news to me that Williams spent most of his life in a wheelchair. It testifies to the possibilities of the human spirit that great adversity for some is no impediment to achievement. I think also of Stephen Hawking, Charles Krauthammer, and FDR.
So stop whining and be grateful for what you have. You could be in a bloody wheelchair!
I sometimes express skepticism about the value of the study of history. If history has lessons, they don't seem applicable to the present in any useful way. But there is no denying that history is a rich source of exemplary lives. These exemplary lives show what is humanly possible and furnish existential ideals. Helmuth James von Moltke was a key figure in the German resistance to Hitler. The Nazis executed him in 1945. Here is his story. Here is an obituary of his wife, Freya.
John Hick has negotiated that mysterious transition that awaits us all. Here is one take on his passing. I saw him in action only once. I recall him questioning whether Jesus ever claimed to be God. An ill-mannered colleague of mine attacked him for that, churlishly. Hick retained his equaninimity, projecting a superiority that was yet without a trace of superciliousness. That impressed me and furnished me with yet another insight into the hierarchy of the spirit and the inequality of human beings.
Hick's An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent is required reading for philosophers of religion. I have two posts on Hick.
My former colleague Xavier Monasterio died last year on this date. Curiously, January 4th was also the date of death of his philosophical hero Albert Camus. This being a weblog, and thus an online journal of the personal and the impersonal, I didn't want the day to pass without a brief remembrance of the man. I'll say a little today and perhaps supplement it later on.
An obituary by his Indiana University colleague, Nino Cocchiarella.
"Grossmann was well known among his colleagues for his eagerness to discuss philosophical problems and to engage in sustained debate on fundamental positions." Sounds right. When I, a stranger, wrote Grossmann sometime in the '80s and posed some questions for him, he responded in a thorough and friendly manner. May peace be upon him.
Here is another obituary by Javier Cumpa and Erwin Tegtmeier. It ends with a tantalizing reference to the book Grossmann was working on when felled by a massive stroke: Facts. I hope Grossmann's literary executors make the manuscript available.
The summer of '84 found me in Bloomington, Indiana. Thanks to the largesse of the American taxpayer, I was a 'seminarian' in Hector-Neri Castaneda's NEH Summer Seminar. One afternoon we repaired to a bar where we encountered Professor Grossmann. He told a story about the 19th century German philosopher Kuno Fischer, who was a big name in his day and a professor at Heidelberg. One day some workmen were making a racket outside his apartment. This incensed the good professor and he warned the workmen: "If you don't stop making this noise, I will leave Heidelberg!" The workmen stopped. Grossmann remarked that if Quine were to have lodged a similar complaint, the workmen would have laughed and bid him goodbye.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
As Heidegger might have said, we achieve our authenticity (Eigentlichkeit) in Being-towards-death (Sein-zum-Tode).
Amy Winehouse succumbed to the curse of 27 today. Why is 27 such an auspicious age for a quick exit from life's freeway? My guess is that at 27 one is still too young fully to appreciate the ravages to the body of life in the fast lane but is old enough to have done irreparable damage, so much so that just one more snort, one more shot, one more binge pushes the self-abuser over the edge. So 27 is a sort of crossroads.
Here is Winehouse singing the great Gerry Goffin-Carole King song, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? But there never was and never will be a cover superior to the Shirelle's 1961 version. I've loved this song, in this version, ever since I first heard it in '61. Carole King's version from her 1971 Tapestry album is also outstanding.
I quoted Jim Morrison on the eve of the 40th anniversary of his death: "The future's uncertain, and the end is always near." This morning I discovered that Rob Grill, lead singer of The Grassroots, has passed on. Their first top ten hit, "Live forToday," made the charts in the fabulous and far-off Summer of Love (1967). The lyrics are laden with the '60s Zeitgeist and express something true and valuable that continues to resonate with many of us who were young in those days.
Here is a delightful clip in which none other than Jimmy Durante introduces the boys -- "They don't have a manager, they have a gardener" -- singing (or rather lip-syncing) their signature number.
I first became aware of the Australian philosopher Quentin Gibson when I discovered his book The Existence Principle. It was published in 1998, when Gibson was 85 years old, in the Kluwer Philosophical Studies Series, #75. My A Paradigm Theory of Existence appeared in the same series in 2002, #89. Our approaches are radically different: I maintain what he denies, for one thing, that there are modes of existence. I discuss some of his ideas on pp. 15-22 of my book.
I learned here that Gibson is the son of W. R. Boyce Gibson whose translation of Edmund Husserl's Ideen I studied as an undergraduate. Small world.
You will have noticed, astute reader that you are, that my opening sentence is ambiguous. 'The late pianist George Shearing' must be read de re for the sentence to be true, while my formulation suggests a de dicto reading. Compare:
a. The late George Shearing is such that that there is a passage in OTR about him.
b. There is a passage in OTR about the late George Shearing.
(a) is plainly true and wholly unproblematic. (b), however, is false in that there is no passage in OTR about George Shearing under the description 'late' or 'deceased.' On the contrary, the passage in question depicts him as so exuberantly alive as to drive Dean Moriarty 'mad.' But is (b) plainly false?
I suppose it depends on whether 'about' is ambiguous in (b). Can a passage that depicts x as F be about x even if x is not F? Or must x be F if a passage that depicts x as F is correctly describable as about x? My tentative view is that there are both uses in ordinary English. Consequently, (b) is not plainly false.
Is the definite description 'the man in the corner with champagne in his glass' about a man in the corner even if he does not have champagne in his glass but sparkling water instead? If you say 'yes,' then you should agree that (b) is not plainly false, but ambiguous.