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A Philosophy Professor’s Final Class

This past spring, the philosopher Richard J. Bernstein taught his final two classes at the New School for Social Research, in New York, where he had been a professor since 1989. One was a course on American pragmatism, the tradition to which his own work belongs. The other was a seminar on Hannah Arendt, who, late in her life, was Bernstein’s friend. Years ago, when I got my Ph.D., I was Bernstein’s student. I still am, in a way. And so I asked him if I could audit the class on Arendt and write about it. He said that he didn’t like passive auditors—I would have to participate fully. That requirement struck me as a good description of what Bernstein had done all his life.”