Most of our readers will know that Annette Baier died recently. This is a loss that is shared by students, friends, and philosophers in general. I invite others to post rememberances, thoughts, etc. in the comments to Lynne's post. (ML)
In Memoriam: Annette Baier
Annette Baier was my teacher and a steadfast friend for over 30 years. That number staggers me, in part because I realize that I am now around the age Annette was when we first met, back in 1980, when I arrived at Pitt. She was such a brilliant, sophisticated, witty, and cosmopolitan person—unlike anyone I had ever met. With annual hikes in the Alps, traveling the earth from end to end, befriending people everywhere, Annette had a commodious life. Coming into her own, as she really did after 50, she showed us, by example, that one’s best work may be yet to come. Those who know her writing are familiar with her insightful approach to the history of philosophy, are awed by the depth and breadth of her knowledge, and swayed by the power of her original ideas. But to those who knew her personally, Annette was a generous, compassionate, and deeply loyal friend. When Annette was in your corner, you were lucky indeed, because her confidence in you was a great gift through thick and thin.
Annette was an active and ideal member of my dissertation committee. I loved our meetings that would often end with enchanting stories about working with J.L. Austin on her thesis “Precision in Poetry”, which addressed my topic, metaphor. She taught me a great deal through her careful readings, but in the end, that was just one stage in a very long relationship.
I truly owe Annette Baier my philosophical life. And so, I owe her many facets of the life I live. In her Eastern Division Presidential Address, Annette explains that, “our personhood is responsive, called into full expression by other persons who treat us as one of them.” In those Pittsburgh years, Annette gave us that kind of recognition that allows for the flourishing of one’s talents. She encouraged originality while fostering responsibility to the canon. She included us in her world, and kept us there without fetters. Sensitive to the power of inclusion and exclusion, Annette did not sit still when she saw injustice.
Annette not only showed me how to navigate as a student in the Pitt department, but she stood up for me later, when I was subject to a pretty nasty tenure fight. During that vulnerable time, Annette’s rather public outrage on my behalf really helped me feel less alone. She could well have responded differently, because she and Kurt had warned me about the history of women in that job, a history they knew personally. I was naïve, in denial, and it was a “good job.” The Baiers forgave me my youth, but like good philosophical parents, they watched over me. When Annette visited the area, she came to my home too, and we had long walks and talks. She cried over the death of my first son, and never forgot him, an infant she never got to meet. She understood the power and depth of grief over the loss of a child. Annette was able to see the interplay between moral and epistemic failures, so when that department tried to end my philosophical life, she fought back hard in the wider world, honorably standing up for someone she believed in. For all her collegiality, Annette had backbone. She knew how and when to stand her ground.
I hope that others will share personal stories, admiration for her insights and accomplishments, and speak to matters that they are well positioned to see. For me, Annette’s loving eye and kind compassion, her generous friendship and constant encouragement, and her fierceness as a champion, changed the course of my life. I wish I could say "Thank you" one more time.