Wednesday, August 7, 2019

James D. Wallace (1937–2019)

James D. Wallace, professor of moral philosophy, has died at the age of eighty-two. This obituary, which appears to have been written by his family, has a detail that would be very much at home in his son David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest:

When Mr. Wallace was a brand new professor, students actually threw rocks at him, mistaking him for a fellow student sufficiently geeky to carry a briefcase.
James Wallace’s mentor in grad school days was the philosopher Norman Malcolm. Malcolm had been Ludwig Wittgenstein’s student. Wittgenstein–Malcolm–Wallace: two degrees of separation.

I remember once roaming the hallway of the University of Illinois philosophy department with my son Ben. We passed James Wallace’s office. I had read both father (Virtues and Vices) and son, and wondered what, if anything, I might have said had the door opened.

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