We remember with gratitude and admiration the contributions of those we have lost. Each achieved greatness in scholarship or service, and each was a great friend of the Center.
Professor Eisenberg was a key member of the original committee appointed by Derek Bok, which recommended the creation of an ethics program. Eisenberg then became a Senior Fellow in the Center. He was an effective and enthusiastic supporter of the Center from the beginning, and an active participant in the intellectual life of the Center for more than 20 years. Everyone associated with the Center is indebted to him, and everyone in the Center who had the privilege of associating with him will miss him greatly. - Dennis F. Thompson
Mr. Joffe was a charter member of the Center's Advisory Council and gave valuable advice and support in the earlier years of the Center. His wide experience in the law and his deep commitment to the highest values of his profession were admired by all in the Center.
Joffe graduated from Harvard College in 1964 and from Harvard Law School in 1967. He had extensive litigation and counseling experience in the areas of antitrust, copyright, contract and the First Amendment, and with pro bono work in the area of civil rights and international human rights. Shortly after joining Cravath, Swaine & Moore, he received an Africa-Asia Public Service fellowship to serve in the Ministry of Justice of the Government of Malawi. He was a member of Human Rights First (formerly Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights). Mr. Joffe was a member of the Center's Advisory Council from its inception in 2000 until his passing in 2010.
Harvard Gazette, 17 January, 2002
University Professor Robert Nozick, one of the late 20th century's most influential thinkers, died on the morning of Jan. 23 at the age of 63. He had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1994.
Nozick, known for his wide-ranging intellect and engaging style as both writer and teacher, had taught a course on the Russian Revolution during the fall semester and was planning to teach again in the spring. His last major book, "Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World," was published by Harvard University Press in October 2001.
According to Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law and a longtime friend, Nozick had been talking with colleagues and critiquing their work until a week before his death.
"His mind remained brilliant and sharp to the very end," Dershowitz said.
He added that Nozick was "constantly probing, always learning new subjects. He was a University Professor in the best sense of the term. He taught everybody in every discipline. He was a wonderful teacher, constantly rethinking his own views and sharing his new ideas with students and colleagues. His unique philosophy has influenced generations of readers and will continue to influence people for generations to come."
Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers said of Nozick's passing, "I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Robert Nozick. Harvard and the entire world of ideas have lost a brilliant and provocative scholar, profoundly influential within his own field of philosophy and well beyond. All of us will greatly miss his lively mind and spirited presence, but his ideas and example will continue to enrich us for years to come."
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Jeremy R. Knowles said, "Bob Nozick was a luminous and wide-ranging philosopher who engaged students and colleagues from across the University and beyond. The loss to philosophy and to Harvard is grievous."
Philosophy Department Chair Christine Korsgaard described Nozick as "a brilliant and fearless thinker, very fast on his feet in discussion, and apparently interested in everything. Both in his teaching and in his writing, he did not stay within the confines of any traditional field, but rather followed his interests into many areas of philosophy. His works throw light on a broad range of philosophical issues, and on their connection with other disciplines. The courage with which he faced the last years of illness, and the irrepressible energy with which he continued to work, made a very deep impression on all of us."
Nozick's controversial and challenging views gained him considerable attention and influence in the world beyond the academy.
His first book, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" (1974), transformed him from a young philosophy professor known only within his profession to the reluctant theoretician of a national political movement.
He wrote the book as a critique of "Theory of Justice" (1971), by his Harvard colleague John Rawls, the James Bryant Conant University Professor Emeritus. Rawls' book provided a philosophical underpinning for the bureaucratic welfare state, a methodically reasoned argument for why it was right for the state to redistribute wealth in order to help the poor and disadvantaged.
Nozick's book argued that the rights of the individual are primary and that nothing more than a minimal state - sufficient to protect against violence and theft, and to ensure the enforcement of contracts - is justified. "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" won the National Book Award and was named by The Times Literary Supplement as one of "The Hundred Most Influential Books Since the War."
A former member of the radical left who was converted to a libertarian perspective as a graduate student, largely through his reading of conservative economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, Nozick was never comfortable with his putative status as an ideologue of the right.
In a 1978 article in The New York Times Magazine he said that "right-wing people like the pro-free-market argument, but don't like the arguments for individual liberty in cases like gay rights - although I view them as an interconnecting whole. ..."
Whether they agreed or disagreed with the political implication of the book, critics were nearly unanimous in their appreciation for Nozick's lively, accessible writing style. In a discipline known for arduous writing, Nozick's approach was hailed as a breath of fresh air.
He explained his approach in the article cited above: "It is as though what philosophers want is a way of saying something that will leave the person they're talking to no escape. Well, why should they be bludgeoning people like that? It's not a nice way to behave."
Despite the notoriety and influence that his first book brought him, Nozick moved on to explore very different territory in his second book, "Philosophical Explanations" (1981). This need to be intellectually on the move at all times characterized his career. He once told an interviewer, "I didn't want to spend my life writing 'The Son of Anarchy, State, and Utopia.'"
In "Philosophical Explanations," Nozick took on subjects that many academic philosophers had dismissed as irrelevant or meaningless, such as free will versus determinism and the nature of subjective experience, and why there is something rather than nothing. In dealing with these questions, he rejected the idea of strict philosophical proof, adopting instead a notion of philosophical pluralism.
"There are various philosophical views, mutually incompatible, which cannot be dismissed or simply rejected," he wrote in "Philosophical Explanations." "Philosophy's output is the basketful of these admissible views, all together." Nozick suggested that this basketful of views could be ordered according to criteria of coherence and adequacy and that even second- and third-ranked views might offer valuable truths and insights.
Nozick continued to develop his theory of philosophical pluralism in his next book, "The Examined Life" (1989), an exploration of the individual's relation to reality that, once again, emphasized explanation rather than proof.
In his book, "The Nature of Rationality" (1995), Nozick asked what function principles serve in our daily life and why we don't simply act on whim or out of self-interest. "Socratic Puzzles" (1997) was a collection of essays, articles, and reviews, plus several examples of Nozick's philosophical short fiction.
His next work, "Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World," (2001) looks at the nature of truth and objectivity and examines the function of subjective consciousness in an objective world. It also scrutinizes truth in ethics and discusses whether truth in general is relative to culture and social factors.
Nozick's teaching followed the same lively, unorthodox, heterogeneous pattern as his writing. With one exception, he never taught the same course twice. The exception was "The Best Things in Life," which he presented in 1982 and '83, attempting to derive from the class discussion a general theory of values. The course description called it an exploration of "the nature and value of those things deemed best, such as friendship, love, intellectual understanding, sexual pleasure, achievement, adventure, play, luxury, fame, power, enlightenment, and ice cream."
Speaking without notes, Nozick would pace restlessly back and forth, an ever-present can of Tab in his hand, drawing his students into a free-ranging discussion of the topic at hand.
He once defended his "thinking out loud" approach by comparing it with the more traditional method of giving students finished views of the great philosophical ideas.
"Presenting a completely polished and worked-out view doesn't give students a feel for what it's like to do original work in philosophy and to see it happen, to catch on to doing it."
He also used his teaching as a way of working out his ideas, often leading to views that he would later present in book form. "If somebody wants to know what I'm going to do next, what they ought to do is keep an eye on the Harvard course catalogue," he once told an interviewer.
Nozick, who grew up in Brooklyn and attended public school there, came to philosophy via a paperback version of Plato's "Republic," which he found intellectually thrilling. Nozick described the experience in his 1989 book, "The Examined Life" - "When I was 15 years old, or 16, I carried around on the streets of Brooklyn a paperback copy of Plato's ‘Republic'; front cover facing outward. I had read only some of it and understood less, but I was excited by it and knew it was something wonderful."
Nozick obtained an A.B. degree from Columbia College in 1959, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton in 1961 and 1963, respectively. After stints at Princeton and the Rockefeller University, Nozick came to Harvard as a full professor in 1969, at the age of 30. He became Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy in 1985 and in 1998 was named the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor.
Nozick was the recipient of many awards and honors, among them the Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association in 1998, which described him as "one of the most brilliant and original living philosophers."
Nozick was also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Council of Scholars of the Library of Congress, a corresponding fellow of the British Academy, and a senior fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard. He served as the president of the American Philosophical Association's Eastern Division from 1997 to 1998, was a Christensen visiting fellow at St. Catherine's College, Oxford University, 1997, and a cultural adviser to the U.S. Delegation to the UNESCO Conference on World Cultural Policy in 1982.
In the spring of 1997, he delivered the six John Locke Lectures at Oxford University. He held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.
This personal tribute was presented by Dennis F. Thompson at the time of the memorial service.
No one in the Center needs to be reminded of the extraordinary contributions that Jack Rawls has made to moral and political philosophy. The superlatives in the press ("the most important political philosopher in the 20th century") are, for once, understatements. Like many associated with the Center (and scholars in many disciplines throughout the world), my work was decisively influenced by his writing and by his comments. Without A Theory of Justice, our field would not be recognizable. For many of us it would not even have existed in any form that could have persuaded us to make its study our calling. What Jack did for practical and professional ethics at Harvard and beyond is perhaps less well known outside the Center. His role as a founding Senior Fellow in the Center, especially in the early days, was truly indispensable. He helped us shape a program that attracted the most talented philosophers from throughout the world to join scholars from many other fields and professions. His intellectual presence was so pervasive that at one point some wondered if the Center had become a "Rawlsian church." Quite apart from the theological connotations, Rawls himself resisted the idea that his own theory should ever become an orthodoxy. He welcomed - and took seriously - criticism from almost everyone, including especially our Fellows who were not philosophers. And he made himself available to all Fellows for wise and sympathetic advice on a wide range of subjects.
Before he became ill, Jack was a regular at all our lectures and dinner seminars. Those who were present will remember how eagerly he engaged in these discussions. Afterward, he often commented to me that these gatherings were rare opportunities for him to "talk seriously about real moral issues." He genuinely appreciated the chance to speak with intelligent students and colleagues who faced such issues in other disciplines and in the practical professions.
Jack's influence extended beyond the profession of philosophy, the academy, and the boundaries of our country. His work has engaged the attention of scholars in economics, political science, sociology, and the law. In the world of public policy and legislation, his ideas are frequently invoked. He has been cited as an authority in more than 60 court opinions in the U.S. in recent years. A Theory of Justice has been translated into 27 languages.
Protestors in Tiananmen Square held up copies of the book for the television cameras, and Indian politicians quote him in warning against the neglect of the most disadvantaged as well as the dangers of religious sectarianism. Those who knew Jack personally will appreciate their good fortune to have had the opportunity to see true greatness up close. Some called Jack "saintly." A perfectly appropriate epithet-but only if you allow for his surprisingly shrewd sense of political action (remember his admiration for Lincoln), and his thoroughly ordinary enthusiasm for worldly pleasure (recall his passion for sailing). As a person Jack was not only free and equal. He was also exemplary: he showed us that the greatest of intellectual achievements can coexist with - and even bear witness to - the most admirable of human qualities. We are privileged to have lived in his time.
Kate Macy Ladd and William Lambert Richardson
Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine
This personal tribute was presented by Dennis F. Thompson at the time of the memorial service.
When I arrived at Harvard in 1986 with the assignment to create a university center for ethics, I did not find a large number of faculty in the medical school clamoring to join the effort. Derek Bok suggested that I talk to Ken Ryan, though Derek also said it might be difficult to get an appointment with him.
I knew of Ken's important work as chair of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects in the mid-1970s - which among other contributions helped establish the standards of informed consent that now govern research across the country. But I assumed he was now preoccupied with his duties as department chair at the Brigham & Women's Hospital.
Yet when I called for an appointment and said the subject was ethics, his secretary called back immediately and asked me to come over the next day. I actually prepared by boning up on research ethics and reproductive bioethics, but when I walked in the door, Ken began questioning me about philosophical pragmatism. He pulled from his shelf a copy of Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, and asked: "Do you think that Rorty is right to reject representational epistemology?"
That was the beginning of a wide-ranging conversation that went on for more than two hours. It was also the beginning of a collegial relationship that over the years grew into a friendship. Ken's encouragement of our efforts to build an ethics program especially in those early years was invaluable. His support - as many of you will appreciate - did not keep him from offering some candid criticism from time to time. Both the support and the criticism helped me personally. It also greatly served the cause of ethics at Harvard more generally. Ken was a founding Senior Fellow of the Ethics Center, and he played a major role in creating the Division of Medical Ethics in the Medical School.
Ken continued to make contributions to ethics beyond Harvard. He chaired another national commission in 1989 - the one that recommended lifting the ban on using fetal tissue from abortions for research. In this as in many other endeavors, he was ahead of his time.
Despite his many national and international obligations, Ken took his role in the Harvard ethics community seriously. He rarely missed an event - or (I might add) an opportunity to ask a challenging question.
In 1997 he accepted an invitation to join our Fellows Seminar, a demanding year-long seminar that brings to Harvard some of the most talented young scholars and teachers in ethics from all over the country and the world. He told me afterward that he learned more from these representatives of the rising generation than he ever had from more experienced people in the field. (It did not escape my notice that he had earlier made a point of describing me as very experienced in the field.) The Center Fellows that year - and the many other students and faculty who have had the privilege to work with Ken over the years - came to appreciate that while Ken learns, he also teaches. We have all been privileged to learn from him. With his death, we have lost a friend. And so has ethics.
Judith N. Shklar
John Cowles Professor of Government
This personal tribute was presented by Dennis F. Thompson at the time of the memorial service.
Dita (as we all knew her) supervised my dissertation in political theory in the late 1960s, and then welcomed me back as a senior colleague in the late 1980s. If that gives me a unique perspective on her, it only permits me to affirm what many of you already know: With Dita there was no difference between being a student and being a colleague. Or if there was a difference, it was that she treated some students as colleagues and colleagues as students.
What was common to my experience both as student and later as colleague was Dita's passion, not simply for knowledge, but for the pursuit of truth-for getting it right. The stakes were high: political theory mattered for its own sake, for its effect on the education of citizens, for the good (and the bad) that it can do in the world. Rather than preserving political theory as a "cultural treasure" for "the very few who could appreciate it," we should be trying, she insisted, to make political theory "accessible to as many people as possible." She herself took seriously, particularly in her later work, the theorist's responsibility to speak to the practical problems of her fellow citizens. The "ordinary vices" that she so devastatingly dissected in the book by that title are not so ordinary in their effects on democratic life.
As she turned her powerful mind on more practical problems, she devoted more attention to the Ethics Center in those critical early years. At the fifth anniversary dinner, she was asked to make some celebratory remarks: "I thought and I thought, and the truth is, the Program hasn't done anything for me." But then she went on to praise individuals in the Program, who had showed her that political theory can be "both socially responsible and intellectually rigorous." Her own political theory - better captured in the phrase "liberalism of permanent minorities" than the more commonly cited alternative "liberalism of fear" - is a resolute, even inspiring, vision.
In her very last manuscript, she wrote: "I am not good at conclusions. The desire to arrive at them strikes me, frankly, as slightly childish." (It is notable that only two of her books have nominal "Conclusions," and one of those is actually a short polemic against conclusions.) Endings without conclusions - this is a principle for the conduct of scholarly inquiry and it is also a prescription for the practice of democratic politics. In this same spirit, I would like to think of Dita's death as an ending but not a conclusion. That may be possible because in a distinctively personal way she will continue to live through her writings. I know of no scholar whose personal and authorial voices are so fused: when reading her we hear her. Even for those who have not been so fortunate to have been her student or her colleague, she will continue to speak through her writings in this personal way. Because of the powerful presence that is in her work as it was in her person, they will come to know her and her ideas, perhaps not with quite the vivacity that we have been privileged to experience, but with a luminosity that will make them wish to have been at Harvard in the late 20th century - to have had the chance to have been her student or her colleague and her friend.
President, New England Conservatory;
Former Harvard General Counsel and Vice President
Harvard Gazette, 15 June 2006
Daniel Steiner, who had a long and distinguished career as vice president and general counsel at Harvard University, and later became president of the New England Conservatory of Music, has died at age 72.
During his more than two-decade tenure at Harvard, Steiner built a highly regarded Office of the General Counsel to deal in-house with the multitude of legal issues that confront a major university.
"Dan Steiner was one of the wisest, most humane colleagues I have ever had," said Derek Bok, who served as University president from 1971 to 1991. "Both I and Harvard owe him an incalculable debt."
Steiner was appointed by President Nathan M. Pusey as Harvard's first general counsel in 1970, and was given the additional title of vice president in 1982 to reflect his additional administrative responsibilities. He stepped down from that post in 1992.
Born Aug. 6, 1933, Steiner received the A.B. degree magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1954. After spending a year at the University of London, he earned the LL.B. degree from Harvard Law School in 1958. Following service in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, he practiced law for five years in New York City.
Prior to returning to Harvard as general counsel, he worked in Washington, D.C., first as chief of legislative programs for the Agency for International Development in the State Department, then as general counsel and acting staff director for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For his work at the commission he received the public administration award of the William A. Jump Memorial Foundation.
During his two decades as general counsel, Harvard's relationships with the federal government changed significantly, and there were important judicial decisions affecting higher education.
"A moment of particular meaning to me," Steiner said in a 1991 interview, "was when the Supreme Court quoted extensively from our brief in a case upholding the right of universities to take race and ethnicity into account as positive factors in reaching admissions decisions."
Steiner worked closely with the Governing Boards, the president, the deans of faculties, and other officers in responding to federal, state, and local issues, in adapting the governance of Harvard to changing times, and in developing new policies and procedures that significantly affected life at Harvard. These included relations between the University and industry, free speech, affirmative action, scientific misconduct, conflict of interest, sexual harassment, and shareholder responsibility.
After leaving the general counsel position, Steiner became an adjunct lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government from 1993 to 1996, and in 1997-98, he co-chaired the American Medical Association Task Force on Association/Corporate Relations.
In 2000, he became president of the New England Conservatory (NEC) after serving as an overseer, a member of the board of trustees, and for a year as acting president. He was the first non-musician to head the institution.
Under his leadership, NEC attracted many renowned teachers to its faculty and experienced a 70 percent rise in student applications. In 2003, he announced a $100 million capital campaign of which $72 million had been raised at the time of his death.