A Princeton education

(About my life, following up on my piece for the 50th-reunion book at Princeton.)

When I talk about my Princeton education, academics are often astounded at the people I took courses from. Some of them:

in mathematics: Alonzo ChurchRay [Raymond] SmullyanAbraham (Avram) Robinson; and Bob [Robert] Gunning, who was the best teacher of mathematics (both clear and funny) I had at Princeton and was a superb adviser for my first two years

in philosophy: Carl HempelPaul BenacerrafHilary Putnam

in linguistics courses: Sam [Samuel] Atkins, a classicist who taught the intro. course that made me realize that linguistics was what I wanted to do, and Henry Hoenigswald, who commuted from Penn to teach historical linguistics (the only other linguistics course Princeton offered at the time)

Meanwhile, among my undergraduate intellectual friends were Tim [Thomas Michael] Scanlon and George Boolos (both of them in philosophy and mathematical logic).

After satisfying distribution requirements (including physics; for complex reasons, I didn’t get to take chemistry as well, though I’d hoped to), I was steered by the math department into a schedule that was as close to 100% math as possible; but I didn’t always take their direction, and Robinson (my junior-year adviser) and Benacerraf (my senior-year adviser) encouraged me in my shift towards language-related courses and research projects.

Some courses I remember with pleasure: modern European literature; social disorganization; philosophy of mathematics; philosophy of science; philosophy of language; into. to musical theory; Haydn and Mozart (I wanted to take Bach and Handel as well, but couldn’t fit it into the schedule); a series of German courses (in which I read Stifter’s “Bergkristall”, Fontane’s Effi Briest, and Schiller’s Maria Stuart); a year of Russian; and a year of Sanskrit (with Atkins). Just wonderful.


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