“I know, I was planning to attend. Do you have the keys
to his place?”
She reached into her coat and took out the keys and a
well-thumbed edition of The Story of Philosophy.
“What are you doing with that?” I asked.
“Just boning up for Daddy’s lecture. Phone me when you
find out anything.”
Hours after she’d gone, I could still smell the mimosa.
It all began on a wet Paris afternoon in 1948. I was
huddled over my Olympia, putting the final touches on a small
monograph concerning certain neglected aspects of the LeibnizWolffian school’s influence on Die Krisis der europMischen
Wissensch und die transzendent PhMnomenologie when she walked
in – blonde, beautiful and stacked. She wasn’t the dame in
the mind of God, but she’d do until one came along.
“What’s your problem, sweetheart?” I asked, lighting up
“Are you Jean-Paul Sauvage, the ‘Philosopher Detective’?”
“That’s what it says on the door.”
She hesitated momentarily, and when she continued, her
ice-blue eyes were clouded.
“t·ly father said if I ever needed help, I should contact
you Mr. Sauvage. And … and now he’s missing. I want you to
“Who’s missing, doll’?”
“Doctor Witticus von-Etzdorf.”
I felt like I’d been hit with all 46 volumes of the
Collected Works of Saint-Simon. I’d studied under old Prof.
van Etzdorf back in my student days at WUrtemberg. A brilliant
philosopher, he had lived as a recluse since the death of his
wife over 20 years before. Besides his daughter, I was the only
other person to ever get close to him.
“You must be Athene.”
She nodded. Only the Professor would hang a nutty
moniker like that on a classy broad like this.
“What makes you think your old man’s missing?”
“I went up to Heidelberg to visit him yesterday and he
wa5n’t in his rooms. The bed hadn’t been slept in. And his
copy of Critique of Pure Reason was on his desk. He never goes
anywhere without it. I’m worried, Mr. Sauvage.”
She was wearing a nice perfume. The scent was mimosa. It
brought back memories of a sabbatical on Mykonos with a sexy
little spinoza scholar named Yvette.
“I wouldn’t worTY, glamour puss. He’s probably just
visiting a friend but, if it will make you feel any better, I’ll
drive up to Heidelberg and nose around.”
“There’s something else you should know. Daddy had been
invited by the Logical Positivists to speak on Hegel at the
University of Vienna the day after tomorrow.”
I drove to Heidelberg that evening. The Professor lived
on a quiet side street off the Korn Mardt. When I’d climbed
the stairs, I was surprised to find the door to his apartment
ajar. Then I made my first mistake. I kicked open the door
and strolled in. A guy was standing by the desk. I couldn’t
tell much about him because he was shining a flashlight in
my eyes. I knew one thing for certain, though. He wasn’t
looking for an honest man.
Before I could move, somebody slugged me from behind
and everything went as dark as Plato’s Cave. When I regained
consciousness, that is to say “consciousness” defined, in the
manner of Locke or Reid, as “the reflective Apprehension of the
mind of its own process.” I discovered that the thugs had
The place looked like a torpedo had tied a pineapple to
it. Drawers were overturned. Papers lay strewn about the floor.
And, judging by the way the sofa was sliced up, I had a feeling
that whoever sapped me didn’t find what they were looking for.
I stumbled to my feet and, as I turned to leave, I spotted a
ticket stub neaT the door. It was for the Bolshoi Ballet. I
had an idea. After 10 minutes, I finally found the phone under
a pile of old issues of the Revue de Metaphysique et de Morale
and called Athene. Her voice was silky with sleep.
“Sorry to disturb your shut-eye, toots, but did your old
man ever go in for ballet?”
“Not that I know of. What’s the angle?”
“Probably nothing. I’m just playing a screwy hunch. Go
back to your beauty sleep, baby. I’ll call you if anything
I locked the place up and checked into a cheap hotel. In
the morning, I had a lump the size of a philosophers’ stone on
the back of my noodle. I dressed quickly, downed a fast cup of
joe, and walked out to my car. Somebody called my name before
I reached it. He was a short, plain man wearing a tan trench
coat. The only thing that might distinguish him from a thousand
other mugs was the snub-nosed Srn i_ th and I’lesson he poked in my
“O.K. shamus. Listen and listen good. I’m gonna “Excuse me fer interrupting, but I believe you Just said,
‘Listen “good”.’ Precisely how de you associate ethjcs, specifically morally praiseworthy character, action or motive with a
simple sensory experience? Or perhaps you were speaking axiologically, in which case I am forced to inquire as to whether
this goodness is intrinsic or extrinsic. If extrinsic, or
‘instrumental,’ then it must derive its being from -”
“Cut the gab, bright eyes. One false move outta you and
I’ll blow your head off.”
“But how are we to determine the ‘falsity’ of any move
when moves per se cannot be characterized as either true or
false? On a correspondence theory of truth, truth or falsity
is properly ascribed to a proposition if, and only if, the
fact to which the proposition refers is actually the case. And
on what grounds are we to judge the purported ‘falsity’ of any
move which I might undertake? An action may be effective or
ineffective, salutary or infelicitous, meritorious or blameworthy,
wise or foolish. In none of these cases, however long and
arduously may you try to do so, is it possible to secure a
unique identifying reference – an a priori condition of the
ascription of the truth or falsity – to an appropriate empirical
“How’s that again?”
“Let me illustrate my point, “I replied, knocking the
revolver aside and kneeing him in the groin. He crumpled to the
pavement. I kicked him a few times in the kisser until he stopped
There wasn’t much in his pockets – a few rubles, a switchblade that wasn’t quite as big as the Sword of Damocles, a driver’s
license made out to Gregor Alexeyevich Reznichenko, and a
heidelberg Public Library card. I stuffed everything in my
pockets, including the heater. The library card looked
interesting. Gregor wasn’t my idea of a bookworm. I decided
to check it out.