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The Core Curriculum

Professor Morgenbesser’s Pipe—A Columbia Anecdote about Kant, 1921-2004.

“A familiar Columbia legend: Sidney Morgenbesser, professor of philosophy, now emeritus, was smoking in the subway. A transit cop came up to Professor Morgenbesser and demanded that he put out his pipe. “What if everyone smoked?” the cop said, reprovingly. “Who are you—Kant?” the irritated professor asked, whereupon the policeman, misunderstanding “Kant” as something else, hauled Sidney Morgenbesser off to the precinct house.” (David Denby, Great Books, p.250)

Professor Morgenbesser (1921-2004), a famous Columbia professor, was famous for his dry wit. Read his obituary in the New York Times.


David Denby, Great books: My adventures with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and other Indestructible Writers of the Western World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996). 

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