Sidney Morgenbesser, the philosopher’s philosopher, died on August 1. Sidney was one of a kind. An ordained rabbi who didn’t practice (but belonged to Americans for Peace Now); a scholar who mostly didn’t publish (if your grandmother knows it, don’t publish it, he would say, adding, “Moses only published one book”); a teacher whose main classroom was Broadway between 110th and 116th Streets (where he would wander like a kibitzing Socrates asking Columbia colleagues, students, friends and passers-by essential questions that as often as not had no answers); and not least, for many years a member of The Nation‘s editorial board who made constructive trouble, and whose jokes, analytic interventions and nagging pushed us in the direction of clarity, logic, moral intelligence and humanism.
We also note the death on August 4 of Gloria Emerson, best remembered for her fiercely honest dispatches from Vietnam. In a 1995 Nation book review, she wrote that a writer must make war imaginable, for “in the detail is the horror.”