Sidney Morgenbesser

Sidney Morgenbesser, who taught philosophy at Columbia for many years, died recently at 82. I don’t know the field of philosophy well enough to know whether Sidney was an important philosopher, but I do know that anyone who ever had any contact with him (as I did briefly a number of years ago) will never forget his famous wit. An article about him, not really an obituary, in the New York Sun gives some of the better known examples:

The most celebrated Morgenbesser anecdote involved visiting Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin, who noted that it was peculiar that although there are many languages in which a double negative makes a positive, no example existed where two positives expressed a negative. In a dismissive voice, Morgenbesser replied from the audience,

Say What? (3)

  1. Andrew Lazarus August 14, 2004 at 1:32 pm | | Reply

    For the record, the “Yeah, yeah” remark is also attributed to Saul Kripke. No first-hand knowledge.

  2. Don Guttenplan October 6, 2004 at 4:14 pm | | Reply

    For the record, Yeah, Yeah is never correctly attributed to Kripke, who was just a pisher when Sidney said it (as was I). However it did gain wide currency (and may have first moved from the oral tradition into print) in a NY Times magazine profile of Kripke back in either the late 1970s or early 1980s.

    1. mark borowsky December 5, 2022 at 7:05 am | | Reply

      You are absolutely correct, sir. Austen was hit by Morgenbesser’s pie.

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