Jim Holt offers a brief tour d'horizon. First an introduction:
The American philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser (1921-2004) was an odd case. For decades he held the prestigious John Dewey chair in philosophy at Columbia University. Before that, he was mentor to Hilary Putnam. Yet he rarely wrote anything. Instead, like Socrates, he was known for his viva voce philosophising. He was also known for his zingers’...
The one best known to me was a (maybe apocryphal) encounter with the New York cops involving a misunderstanding of the word "Kant." But Jim has more:
Professor Morgenbesser, do you believe in Mao’s law of contradiction?’ a student asked.
I do and I don’t.’
Professor Morgenbesser, why is there something rather than nothing?’
Oh, even if there was nothing, you still wouldn’t be satisfied!’
Morgenbesser to B.F. Skinner: So, you’re telling me it’s wrong to anthropomorphise humans?
Morgenbesser on pragmatism: Great in theory, doesn’t work in practice.’
Morgenbesser was also a rabbi, which helped him see the Jewish side of philosophy.
Jewish ethics: can’ implies don’t’.
Jewish logic: if not p, what? q maybe?
Jewish decision theory: maximise regret.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.