A Beautiful Mind
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was no one vein of philosophy that Albritton mined. "He just
wandered through the world coming across philosophical knots, untying
them and moving on without leaving a manual on how he did it,"
says UCLA Philosophy Professor David Kaplan '56, Ph.D. '64. "He
also uncovered knots in places where philosophers had thought there
the most obscure subjects came alive in Albritton's presence. Herman
will always remember the inimitable way in which he once taught
an undergraduate course to some 300 students at Harvard. An expert
in ancient philosophy, Albritton was lecturing on St. Paul's Galatian
Letters, a topic laden with the concept of "agape," or
divine love. "It was a subject that held absolutely no interest
for the students, but Rogers had everyone riveted," recalls
Herman. "He could make you see why there would be some issue
that is strange to you and yet could preoccupy someone in another
age and why the matter might be important to you."
Socrates, Albritton had a knack for asking hard questions that forced
his students and colleagues to think about things they took for
granted. And like Socrates, he was deadly serious about questioning
so serious, in fact, that he was ever suspicious of questions
that led to answers. "Philosophy for Rogers was a constant
process of digging," says Gavin Lawrence, another of Albritton's
admiring colleagues at UCLA. "He would explore one line of
inquiry and just when you thought it was right, he would backtrack
and go another way."
example, Albritton once asked Carriero over dinner if he knew he
was awake. "My initial reaction was of course I know I'm awake,"
says Carriero. "But after much conversation, I came away thinking
that even if there was no doubt about my being awake, it wasn't
the case that I knew I was awake." Six weeks later, the two
philosophers dined over the same issue and, says Carriero, "I
came away with the opposite conclusion."