From an account in today’s New York Sun of the funeral of Columbia philosophy professor Sidney Morgenbesser:

Columbia University sociology professor Allan Silver… recalled Morgenbesser as a man with moral intelligence of the highest order.

“He taught by example without seeking to be exemplary.” He said despite sometimes rough manners, Morgenbesser was “selfless in the sense that he was always aware of how others saw the world.”

Mr. Silver told how at a gathering in Morgenbesser’s apartment, the latter admired Mr. Silver’s shirt. Mr. Silver took it off, and went shirtless during the party. “He accepted my gift quietly, and did not later speak of it. Gradually, I became irritated, indeed annoyed. I had performed a prototypic act of generosity, of love–without a calculative or selfish impulse in mind or heart–and I got no moral credit for it.”

After many years, Morgenbesser said he had not spoken of it lest Mr. Silver feel offended that he rewarded Mr. Silver with gratitude for so selfless an act. Mr. Silver said Morgenbesser thereby taught him something about self-regard and self-absorption.

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