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Devon Belcher ’89

September 14, 2020, in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

With an irrepressible grin, rock-star mullet, and unrestrained enthusiasm for heavy metal, Devon cut an unforgettable figure from the moment he arrived on campus. “I still picture Devon as that gangly kid, in shorts and a Metallica tee, with middle-parted long blond glam-metal hair,” Sandeep Kaushik ’89 wrote in remembrance of their friendship at Reed. A knack for outrageous pronouncements made him a fixture of late-night debates in the SU, where classmates soon learned that beneath the headbanging exterior lurked a first-rate intellect. Devon majored in philosophy and wrote his thesis, “Time, Existence and Ontology: McTaggart’s Regress Argument and Some of Its Consequences for the Metaphysics of Time,” with Prof. Charles Cross [philosophy 1988–90]. After graduation he did a stint as a bartender and went on to earn a PhD from the University of Colorado, eventually becoming a professor at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, where he taught philosophy and humanities.

Devon inspired students to love logic, metaphysics, the philosophy of language, classics of literature, and the history of science. He saw students as equals in terms of their being honest, sincere, and dedicated truth-seekers and won his university’s Award for Meritorious Teaching in 2013.

Devon never lost his plainspoken charm. He described learning philosophy as “learning to piss people off” and often made use of metaphors involving squirrels, pirates, and Vikings.

Prof. Mary Krizan, who teaches philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, overlapped in graduate school with Devon at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

“Devon was one of the good guys,” she said, “one of the people who helped me out when I was a lost and immature graduate student starting out in the PhD program at CU Boulder. While Devon was a serious philosopher of language and metaphysician, he also had a deep appreciation for the history of philosophy and proper respect for the a priori.

“Devon’s open-source, free-to-use logic textbook, Smoove Prooves, deserves special recognition. It is a clear (and entertaining) introduction to propositional logic, making a Fitch-style system of natural deduction easy for students to understand. Devon will be missed; but, as long as I am teaching logic, his legacy will live on through Albert the Pirate Squirrel sailing the high seas of natural deduction.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2021

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