Brian Leiter's blog tells me that Israel Scheffler passed away yesterday at the age of ninety-one. Many, many others knew him far better than I, and will, I am sure, have a good deal to say about this wise and very sweet man. I should like to add one personal story now just sixty-one years old. In the late Fall of 1952 I found myself in a rather difficult bind. I was a senior at Harvard, supposedly writing an honors thesis for graduation. Since I was going through Harvard in three years, I needed the two semesters of "tutorial for credit" to complete the thirty-two courses required for the degree, and this credit was awarded only if one actually wrote a thesis. But I had flamed out in my effort to write a logic thesis with Hao Wang, and was casting about desperately for a manageable topic. Morton White suggested I write a thesis on Gilbert Ryle's new book, Concept of Mind, which I had just read in a course on Analytic Philosophy with White. I got to it earnestly, and quickly produced fifty pages or so. But having let Wang down, I did not feel that I could go back to him with this trivial topic totally outside his areas of interest, so I was on my own.
Is Scheffler was then teaching, if memory serves, in the Harvard School of Education, but he had close ties to the Philosophy Department. Quite spontaneously, he offered to step in and serve as my de facto thesis advisor. He read what I had written, made some helpful suggestions, and in general saw me through a difficult period. It was an extremely generous thing for him to do -- a true supererogatory act, to use a term that has gone out of circulation -- and I have always been very grateful. I was then too young to appreciate how unusual such an offer was at Harvard in those days [I was barely nineteen], but I did have enough wit to recognize that Is Scheffler was a kind, thoughtful, and thoroughly decent man. He will be missed.