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UCLA Magazine Winter 2002
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Winter 2002
A Beautiful Mind
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Right up until his death, UCLA philosopher Rogers Albritton wrestled with unfathomable questions

By Ajay Singh
Photography by Ruth Frame Zinkievich and courtesy of Heloise Frame

Shortly before Rogers Albritton was admitted to UCLA Medical Center this past spring, he had a telephone conversation with his sister, Heloise Frame, during which they discussed a philosophical question that had long consumed him: How can God, who is good, create evil?

The talk, one in a long-running series of Sunday debates between the siblings, quickly turned to the question of faith. Frame, 73, who practices a form of Christian psychotherapy in upstate New York, told her brother that according to the Scripture, God created both good and evil. As a philosopher, Albritton found it impossible to come to terms with the belief that evil exists so that good may come out of it. To him, that was akin to saying that there's something positive about smallpox.

Almost until he drew his last breath — he died at age 78 from pneumonia on May 21, 2002, three weeks after being admitted to the hospital's intensive-care unit — Albritton wrestled with "the problem of evil." Although hooked up to tubes and monitors, he spent many of his last days trying to unravel the puzzle of evil with philosophers and former students from across the nation who came to visit him. The scene was reminiscent of the death of Socrates, who, too, grappled with philosophical questions right up until his final moments. "Rogers," says John Carriero, the former chair of UCLA's Department of Philosophy, "was a relentlessly curious person who would pursue things to their end."

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