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UCLA Magazine Winter 2002
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Winter 2002
A Beautiful Mind
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There 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 were none."

Even 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."

Like 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."

For 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."

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