Unpublished and Untenured, a Philosopher Inspired a Cult Following

James Ryerson in the New York Times:

Ever since completing his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh in 1993, the Israeli philosopher Irad Kimhi has been building the résumé of an academic failure. After a six-year stint at Yale in the ’90s that did not lead to a permanent job, he has bounced around from school to school, stringing together a series of short-term lectureships and temporary teaching positions in the United States, Europe and Israel. As of June, his curriculum vitae listed no publications to date — not even a journal article. At 60, he remains unknown to most scholars in his field.

Among a circle of philosophers who have worked or interacted with Kimhi, however, he has a towering reputation. His dissertation adviser, Robert Brandom, describes him as “truly brilliant, a deep and original philosopher.” Jonathan Lear, who helped hire Kimhi at Yale, says that to hear Kimhi talk is to experience “living philosophy, the real thing.” The philosopher and physicist David Z. Albert, a close friend of Kimhi’s, calls him “the best and most energetic and most surprising conversationalist I have ever met, a volcano of theories and opinions and provocations about absolutely everything.” (Kimhi and Albert appear to have been inspirations for the two brainy protagonists of Rivka Galchen’s short story“The Region of Unlikeness.”)

To his admirers, Kimhi is a hidden giant, a profound thinker who, because of a personality at once madly undisciplined and obsessively perfectionistic, has been unable to commit his ideas to paper.

More here.  [Thanks to Jessica Collins.]