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Roger Ebert died today, of cancer. I'm not in the habit of noting when people die here; there are too many worthwhile people in the world, and even those that stand out as particularly important are numerous. Still, Ebert is on a short list of people I consider treasures of civilisation; his accomplishments are all his (he didn't start a company whose workers' accomplishments will be attributed to him), and his accomplishments were in one of the four realms I think matter the most: science, art, nations, and (small-p) philosophy. I see Ebert as being a philosopher. The paths to philosophy are many, but they are all very human; without an understanding of what it is to be human, the challenges of meaning, the shape of lives, and engagement in culture, philosophy is a disjointed process. Ebert engaged in philosophy; only rarely in esoteric questions, but frequently, seriously, and in a very human way, he wrote a lot about what it is to be human and what we're doing. This came out in his reviews, and it came out in his blog.

The meaning of his life contributed to the meaning of humanity. He was not alone in that distinction, but he was significant.