Marjorie Glicksman Grene (1910-2009)
April 14, 2009 5:14 PM   Subscribe

The philosopher Marjorie Grene died last month at the age of 98. Author of over 30 books, pioneer in the philosophy of biology and one of the first interpreters of existentialism, Grene was an iconoclastic thinker fondly remembered by many. Her contributions span the whole of philosophy, and her long career began with a bachelor's in zoology from Wellesley; from there she studied with Whitehead and C.I. Lewis at Harvard, with Jaspers and Heidegger in Germany in the 1930s, and alongside Carnap, Hempel, and Polyani in Chicago. Hence she was one of the few modern philosophers who was as conversant in existentialism as she was in logical positivism.
posted by ornate insect (10 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The fifth link in the FPP deserves special mention; it's a 2005 interview w/Grene that reveals her to be feisty and cantankerous. Furthermore, we get some insight into her influences and thought; and some great anecdotes:

BLVR: You know, I forgot to ask about philosopher of science Imre Lakatos—

MG: I didn’t kill him!!

BLVR: Why does everyone say you had a part in it?

MG: Because once he helped me out of a taxi in London and he hit his head on the door. And I didn’t kill him! He died soon, and I don’t know if it was the head bump. But it wasn’t because of me! [Laughing heartily]

posted by ornate insect at 5:46 PM on April 14, 2009

Oh gods. She was quite a woman, and I loved everything by her that I've read, even if it was in a field I usually hated. Where Rawls could leave me screamingly, sailor punching angry, she could always leave me thoughtful. Her Philosophy of Biology was my introduction to the subject, and her The Knower and the Known is an amazingly readable book.

I feel very sad this comes shortly after I've decided to get my PhD in history, rather than continue in Philosophy.
posted by strixus at 6:01 PM on April 14, 2009

posted by joe lisboa at 6:43 PM on April 14, 2009

posted by Joe Beese at 8:31 PM on April 14, 2009

Thanks for posting this, I hadn't heard. Sad news.
posted by voltairemodern at 8:47 PM on April 14, 2009

posted by eustatic at 8:50 PM on April 14, 2009

Good post. I don't know much about Grene, but I did some reading up on her when her passing was mentioned on Leiter and I'd like to check out her work now.
posted by painquale at 8:52 PM on April 14, 2009

That interview is a riot. There are some fearsome take-downs in there, of other philosophers and of the interviewer.

BLVR: That reminds me, I forgot to ask about Richard Rorty. You’re friends with him, though you don’t agree with his philosophy?

MG: We are friends, but you can’t agree with his philosophy. It doesn’t exist! He’s a wit! He should’ve lived in the eighteenth century. He just makes clever remarks that don’t mean anything.

[. . .]

BLVR: Do you like Darwin?

MG: Like him? What a stupid question. How can anybody say that? How can anybody not like him? What do you mean?

[. . .]

Oh, but [E. O.] Wilson’s terribly crude. He’s just the farthest thing from a philosopher. He says, [paraphrasing] “Philosophers believe that ethics is based on intuition, but it isn’t, it’s based on some part of the brain,” I don’t know, I’ve forgotten what exactly. But philosophers don’t all believe that ethics is just based on intuition. That’s just stupid! It’s ignoramus! I mean, he’s very good apparently, I guess, at ants as social insects, but he’s not very good at anything to do with people.

posted by DaDaDaDave at 9:43 PM on April 14, 2009

I didn't realize how much she'd written aside from the Aristotle stuff, which I've always found enjoyable and insightful. And I'd missed the obit, as well, so thanks for this.

Fantastic aside on Rorty, too (but how much deeper it goes than just Rorty... so many modern philosophers frightened of appearing spiritual turn away from saying anything philosophical in the process)
posted by mdn at 9:55 AM on April 15, 2009

The metaphysical foundations necessary to support an adequate scientific method, the vision of a unified science entailed by such foundationist propositions, the criticism, and, partly, correction of Cartesian physical theory, original use of the mathematical tradition, anticipations of twentieth century doctrines of space and time, the application of a complex investigative method in the emerging field of scientific hermeneutics: all these features are to be discovered when we look at Spinoza in the context of the history of the sciences, from his own time to ours.—"Introduction" by Marjorie Grene to Spinoza and the Sciences / edited by Marjorie Grene and Debra Nails, p. xviii-xix.
posted by No Robots at 12:16 PM on April 15, 2009

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