Ed Gettier: Remembrance, by Ernie Lepore
by Ernie Lepore (Rutgers)
I met Ed in my second sophomore year. It was my second one because my mom had died at the beginning of my first one and so I quit school for the year. When I returned, I had hoped to become a lawyer and was told logic was a good start. I signed up for Ed’s introductory logic course. It was so good I signed up in the second semester for his modal logic course. I took that same course again as a junior, a senior and even during the semester after I graduated before I went to graduate school the following winter; in total I took that course four times but it wasn't because it took me four times to get it right. Rather, it was simply to be around Ed. I had many teachers during my undergraduate years that influenced me greatly; Barbara Partee and Terry Parsons come to mind right away and also Herb Heidelberger. What was special about Ed was how much time he spent with me and how seriously he took me. I had this practice of sticking my head into his office (his door was always open), he'd see me and say let’s get a coffee and off we’d go to the student center for hours, accumulating a pile of napkins scribbled with solutions to logic problems. Ed seemed to love it; I certainly did. But it wasn’t all boxes and diamonds and arrows. We talked about boxing (Ed’s passion) and wrestling (my own), among many other topics. And this continued throughout my graduate career. I managed to visit Umass every year for a day, which meant meeting Ed and filling him in on my progress.
As I get closer to the end of my career, I find myself naturally losing more and more of my mentors. Van Quine went first. He once told me that if you live long enough you get to see all your friends die. And then Don Davidson followed by Michael Dummett followed by the inimitable Jerry Fodor and now Ed. Though each of these other philosophers also had a profound influence on me, it was different with Ed. Our paths crossed when I was a clueless teenager from Jersey in college on a wrestling scholarship, way in over my head, eager to learn but sufficiently self-aware to realize I had no self-esteem. None of that precluded Ed from spending oodles of time with, and energy on, me. Years later I published a logic book and in its preface I gushed about how generous Ed was with his time and how much it humbled me, indeed, even embarrassed me, because I knew I could never replicate what he had done. The last time I saw Ed was over a decade ago at one of my semantics workshops. At the end Ed praised me for what a good thing I was doing for the many young semanticists in attendance. I replied they should all thank him; I'm just paying forward.