Meet Saul Kripke, The Smartest Jew In Philosophy


The philosopher and logician Saul Kripke is a pretty smart guy, though you’d probably have to be if you taught yourself ancient Hebrew by six, read all of Shakespeare by nine, and mastered the complexities of Descartes before finishing elementary school.

The son of a rabbi and an educational Jewish children’s book author, Kripke underscored the concept of “prodigy” in every way. As only a teenager, Kripke wrote several papers that transformed the study of modal logic—the philosophical study of possibility and contingency, among others—one of which, the story goes, got him an invitation to teach in Harvard’s mathematics department. Kripke declined, saying, “My mother said I should finish high school and go to college first.”

Though publishing two of the most important philosophy books of the last century—Naming and Necessity and a book-length interpretation of Wittgenstein so essential that philosophers occasionally reference the two of them together as “Kripgenstein”—Kripke prefers not write.

The observant Jew and current Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center simply reviews his notes a few times before taking the lectern and speaking off the cuff at a seminar. His talks are recorded, transcribed, and published—no editing needed.

» Watch Saul Kripke lecture on Wittgenstein in Israel.
» Buy one of Kripke’s philosophy books.
» Try your hand at modal logic with this primer.
» See where Kripke ranks among philosophers.

Watch Professory Saul Kripke lecture on Wittgenstein in Israel:

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