I learned yesterday through Facebook that one of my teachers, Haig Khatchadourian, has passed away. He was a warm and generous man, and a philosopher with such broad knowledge and penetrating intellect as to both intimidate and inspire those of us lucky enough to be in his classroom. I remember the blue exam books he would hand back, completely filled and smudged with his red ink, taking any weak point we managed to make and building it into an interesting insight. He made us feel like we were part of an extremely important and demanding project: that of making critical, well-informed sense of the world. All my friends strove eagerly to win his praise, because we felt getting it really meant something.
I remember asking him once about his core philosophical interests, and he explained to me that, early on, he had planned his life as a series of decades: ten years to work on epistemology, ten years on metaphysics, ten years on politics, etc. My impression is that he threw himself completely into each decade, getting to the heart of the matter and planning his courses so that students could be carried along with him.
As a senior, I was allowed to take a graduate seminar he led on Kant’s Critique. I worked harder in that class than in any other. There were four of us, and to this day I have a photograph he took when we met under a tree one day. (I post it below my copies of the CPR.) The fact that he wanted to take a photo, and that he gave us all copies to remember the experience, meant a lot to me, and still does. He really cared about the human side of his students, in addition to his efforts to sharpen our meager intellectual capacities.
There are few who have lived with his focus and dedication. I’m very, very grateful for having been his student.
Thank you so very much for remembering my dad and for describing what it was like to have been his student. We recently met someone who had been his student many years ago at the American University of Beirut who still remembered what he had taught her about Thomas Mann. I lost my beloved father, but the world lost one of its great men. Let us all learn from his pure, beautiful heart and mind.
What a beautiful tribute, Charlie!
Thanks, Carl! I hope you and family are well.
“…. a warm and generous man, … with such broad knowledge and penetrating intellect as to both intimidate and inspire those …in his classroom…. taking any weak point we managed to make and building it into an interesting insight. He made us feel like we were part of an extremely important and demanding project: that of making critical, well-informed sense of the world.…
….He really cared about the human side of his students, in addition to his efforts to sharpen our meager intellectual capacities. … lived with his focus and dedication.”
Sorry to quote so much – but what a great description of a (any) teacher!
Thank you very much for the kind words that you wrote about the kindest and most brilliant man I ever knew. Although I lost my father and best friend, the world lost one of its greatest men.
Thanks for sharing these memories, I really appreciate it. I’m Haig’s relative and I had an ongoing yearly email correspondence with him where he guided my interests in merging my studies in computer science and physics with my interests in philosophy. He left a very positive impression on me, even though I did only get to see and talk with him on rare occasions, and I’m glad to see others feel the same.