Sunday, April 01, 2007

Stephen Speicher, RIP

Stephen Speicher died in the hospital after recently suffering a heart attack. I send my condolences to Betsy Speicher and all of Stephen's family and friends.

When I first got on the internet in 1996 I found my way to the usenet forums, alt.philosophy.objectivism and then humanities. philosophy.objectivism. I discovered a lot of libertarian types there who made the forums exasperating and unpleasant, but there were also some Objectivists arguing their side. Among the Objectivists there was none so doughty and courageous as Stephen Speicher. He would fight back against any irrational opinion, any smear of Ayn Rand or other prominent Objectivists, or any distortion of the philosophy. He single-handedly made hpo interesting and kept me reading it as long as I did.

Stephen called hpo a "cesspool," which it certainly was, and eventually left it with Betsy to create a happier, more rational place for Objectivists to exchange opinions on the internet, the Forum for Ayn Rand Fans.

We communicated via email about an interest we share -- or I guess I should now write shared -- the Aristotelians of Renaissance Padua, Pomponazzi and Zabarella. Very little has been written about Renaissance Aristotelians in English, and I mentioned how frustrated I was because I could not find William F. Edwards's dissertation, The Logic of Iacopo Zabarella on the internet. Stephen got it for me through a service for academics.

I never met the man. I hoped I would meet him and his wife at an ARI speech in Southern California someday, and I planned to introduce myself and thank him in person for sending Edwards's dissertation. I did not get around to it and now it will never happen.

It would be inaccurate, perhaps, to say that a man I never met was a friend, but I feel as though I have lost a friend. You can learn a lot about people just by reading their words. He was an internet friend, you could say. Stephen Speicher's death is a great loss to internet Objectivism.

UPDATE: Betsy Speicher on Stephen.

1 comment:

Dismuke said...

I too am very sad and feel a great sense of loss.

My experience is somewhat similar to Myrhaf's. I came online in 1997 and made my way to hpo later that year. Betsy was one of the first people I made contact with there. Sometime afterward, I discovered that there was a Stephen Speicher whose online persona was very different than Betsy's but nevertheless very refreshing in its own unique way.

My posting style on hpo was to ridicule and lampoon my opponents while, at the same time, attempting to make substantive points. It was something one really cannot get away with doing in a polite and civilized forum but which is perfectly acceptable in a "cesspool" where one very quickly develops a thick skin from all the rocks and sludge thrown at one. Stephen was always very supportive of my postings and, on more occasions than I can recall, we were comrades in arms against the same irrational kooks. We exchanged a number of private emails - many of them laughing over the odd goings on in a very odd forum.

Like Myrhaf, I never met Stephen and he was always on my list of people I would like to meet if I ever made it out to California. I did speak with him over the phone on one occasion. Other than that, I knew him entirely through sitting here clicking away at my keyboard. I too feel like I have lost a friend. And I think we indeed have lost a friend. The advent of the Internet has made it possible for an entirely new variety of friendships to develop and become values in our life. It is just that the existence of such friendships is still relatively new and we have not yet fully integrated all of their various nuances and implications into our commonly accepted norms. So when things like this happen - well, we are sometimes caught a bit off guard by the emotional reaction that we very properly feel.

I have had occasion to meet a few of my "online friends." They almost always turn out to be different in person than how you imagined them to be. It usually takes a few minutes to integrate their appearance, voice and demeanor with the aspects of the person that you have already become acquainted with online. So far, for me, each instance of that has ended up being positive and lots of fun. I just wish I had gotten the chance to do so with Stephen. He will be very much missed and by a lot of people.