The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Ed Gettier: Remembrance, by Bob Sleigh

by Bob Sleigh

I met Ed at a party George Nakhnikian, chair of the Wayne Philosophy Department, gave in the Fall of 1958 to introduce the new hires, Al Plantinga and me, to the then current faculty of philosophy at Wayne State University, including the preceding year's hires, Hector Castañeda and Ed Gettier. I arrived much influenced by Roderick Chisholm; Ed arrived much influenced by Norman Malcolm, and so Wittgenstein. It was a bit of a contentious start for each of us, but within a month we were good friends and philosophical collaborators. The young trio at Wayne—Al Plantinga, Ed, and I-- met almost daily to work on philosophical problems of interest. It was a shared enterprise that brought each of us great pleasure and satisfaction. Ed did an astonishing amount of philosophical work during his ten years at Wayne. Of course there is the article, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?,” which was provisionally accepted at Analysis, the provision being that Ed expand what he had first sent them. What he had sent them contained a formulation of the standard account of knowledge, the counterexamples and little else. He was disinclined to make additions. Reluctantly he did so. But there was much more. Many of the publications from members of the Philosophy Department contained a footnote noting the author's debt to Ed for his help. Indeed almost all the philosophical work done at Wayne during Ed's time there was influenced by his suggestions. And at Wayne, as was to be the case at UMass thereafter, graduate student life for many tended to center around informal, out of class gatherings with Ed. His powerful and agile philosophical mind was on full display, as was his special ability—unmatched in my experience-- to grasp a proposed thesis or philosophical program seemingly at a glance, see what were the deep issues involved, and, more often than not, see why this thesis or program would not work. In 1967, after 10 years at Wayne, Ed left for UMass; I followed two years later. We were colleagues for over forty years. Phil Bricker has some comments on Ed's time at UMass. Suffice it for me to say that at UMass it remained much the same as it had been at Wayne—as a philosopher Ed remained productive and insightful and extraordinarily helpful to anyone who requested his help, and as as a colleague and friend, he remained steady, supportive, and as straightforward and open as one can hope for.