The Dennes Room

The George Myro Memorial Lecture

The Berkeley Philosophy Department has established the George Myro Memorial Fund to support a yearly George Myro Memorial Lecture.

A brief account of George Myro's life and work follows.

George Myro: In Memoriam

by Sally Haslanger and Bruce Vermazen

George Myro began teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964. He is remembered by friends, colleagues, and students as a gifted philosopher and an inspiring teacher. His devotion to teaching and to philosophy led him to meet his classes until two weeks before his death in December 1987, even though he was seriously weakened by his final struggle with AIDS.

He was born on May 10, 1935, in Kiev, Ukraine. In 1937, his father was arrested by the Soviet security police, and George never saw him again. During the war, George and his mother, a teacher of German and physical education, lived in a series of labor camps under German occupation. Eventually, fleeing westward, they settled in a camp for displaced persons in Regensburg, where George attended the camp's Russian school and later the German gymnasium in that city. In July 1946, he emigrated to the United States with this mother and step-father, and attended high school in New York. He completed the B.A. at Dartmouth in 1957 and spent the next four years at Harvard and Oxford working on a Ph.D. from the former, which he completed in 1969. His studies were interrupted for three years while Lieutenant Myro taught English and philosophy at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, discharging an obligation incurred in Dartmouth's Air Force ROTC. His arrival in Berkeley in 1964 was a return to the kind of philosophical atmosphere in which he had flourished at Harvard and Oxford.

Describing his interests for a Philosophy Department brochure, George wrote: "I become easily fascinated by almost any philosophical topics, big or small (with the possible exception of ethics), and am willing to consider almost any approach to it, although I tend to incline towards the 'analytical methods' and to clarification rather than speculation. Perhaps this is because I am so confused on so many philosophical topics. My chief interests are philosophy of mind, theory of knowledge, and the philosophical significance of logic, and above all, metaphysics. My hope is that not only can we become clear on various separate points but can come to see how they fit together in a system. I like to discuss philosophy with students and like them to raise questions and make comments in class — in fact, I become nervous if I have to lecture for any length of time without interruption."

The self-portrait is accurate both in what it says directly and in the indirect reflection of his modesty and kindness. It shows what all those who knew him felt, that his primary commitment, born of love, was not to any philosophical program, but to the activity of philosophy: the conversations, the confusions, and the moments of shared insight.

Always generous with his time and energy, George did more to further the work of his students and colleagues than his own. During his lifetime, he published one book (Rudiments of Logic, co-authored with two of his students) and a half dozen papers; promotions were slow. At the time of his death, an advancement to full professor was in process; it was granted posthumously. A project has begun to publish some of the enormous quantity of writing he left behind. He had an international reputation in his field as a source of valuable commentary and criticism; many of us have learned immensely from his ideas, even more from his questions, and perhaps most from participating with him in doing philosophy together.

Next to philosophy, he loved music, especially opera, and animals.

He is survived by his sister, a physician in Ukraine, and his companion, George Felker of Oakland.