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  • Remembrances for Beth J. Singer (1927–2020)

these remembrances were submited in advance of the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy and read aloud at that meeting. Additional spoken remembrances were also part of the memorial session.


Here are a few words to celebrate the life of our dear colleague, Beth Singer:


Beth Singer was one of the founding members of SAAP. She fought the long fight against the trivialization of philosophy and the dominance of a single method of "correct" thinking. She was a delight to be with: high-spirited and insightful.

Beth Singer brought new life into the theory of rights, introducing elements from pragmatism and feminist theory. Many thinkers profited by her loving critiques, and no one could say that she was anything but generous.

Her passing is a great loss to American philosophy, to SAAP, and to those of us who loved her.

John Lachs, Vanderbilt University, 2 March 2020


I knew Beth Singer from my early years at SAAP. I knew her in various interconnected ways—through her work on and connection to Justus Buchler, who was my dissertation supervisor; as well as her connection to Sidney Gelber (a mentor and friend to me) and his wife Anita. Sidney, like Beth, was another of Buchler's former students, who for a time was provost at State University of New York at Stony Brook and was instrumental in bringing Buchler to Stony Brook from Columbia. Beth and I shared an interest in Buchler's work. Beth was co-editor, along with Joe Grassi, of a special issue of The Southern Journal of Philosophy on the philosophy of Justus Buchler [End Page 145] (Spring 1976), for which she was also a contributor. Beth also wrote the first book-length treatment of Buchler's work, in her book Ordinal Naturalism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Justus Buchler (1983, Bucknell UP). She was also helpful to me, Armen Marsoobian, and Robert Corrington when we were putting together, Nature's Perspectives, an anthology that we co-edited on Buchler's work.

Beth went on to develop her own pragmatic theory of rights. She was one of the co-founders and always an avid supporter of SAAP and of the idea of taking pragmatism and American philosophy in new directions. Beth was loquacious, as anyone who knew her experienced. But she was also generous with her time and very supportive of my work and my career, especially in those early years before tenure, when things felt very precarious. As a woman in philosophy coming up when she did, Beth was a trailblazer and faced formidable odds in what was a very male-dominated profession. While things were a bit easier for me, in part because of people like Beth, I very much appreciate the challenges she must have faced. I will always be indebted to her for her courage and her personal support.

Kathleen Wallace, Hofstra University, 25 February 2020


Beth was one of my first close friends and colleagues in SAAP in the 1980s. We were both working on comparable issues, applying pragmatism to the problems of law, justice, and rights. As a leading scholar of these problems, she was a welcoming figure in the SAAP community and contributed to its empiricist, pluralist, and open philosophical perspective. She was influential not just in the United States, but also in Europe, especially Poland, where she helped organize pragmatist conferences and an international pragmatist community, which has flourished since her pathbreaking efforts. Her work continues to inform and direct American philosophy and the field of legal pragmatism both here and abroad. We will miss her but will be forever affected by her intelligence and initiative.

Fred Kellogg, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, 21 February 2020


I have sat through many memorials at SAAP meetings with Beth Singer and have witnessed her give not a few notices over the years for those who, passing before her, labored in the intellectual vineyards so carefully tended by this organization. Yet this is one the reality of which I could never allow myself to imagine, let alone accept. Others can and no doubt will speak...


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pp. 145-148
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