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Marjorie Grene—Existence Defined By Interactions With Wider World And Not By Self-Awareness

Marjorie Grene, a philosopher of biology, has died at age 98. Dr. Grene is pictured above.

I had not heard of Dr. Grene before reading her obituary in the New York Times earlier this week. 

Life is rough in that you can accomplish a lot, but the first thing you do noteworthy enough for many to take note of you is die. 

There was much of note in Dr. Grene’s life’s story. But the excerpt from her obituary that most caught my attention was this–

“She rejected Descartes’ belief that self-awareness defined the understanding of existence, arguing that meaning comes from interaction with the environment.”

This is excellent. The idea that an understanding of existence is based on interactions with the world around you, instead of on the narrow basis of simply being aware that you exist, is just the thing.

Folks—We’ve got to get out there and mingle in the world of people, places, and ideas. Just being aware of yourself is not enough.  

From the Times obituary—  

Marjorie Glicksman was born in Milwaukee on Dec. 13, 1910, and graduated from Wellesley College in 1931 as a zoology major. She then studied with Heidegger and Jaspers in Germany before earning her doctorate at Radcliffe. She taught at the University of Chocago where she met and married David Grene, a lauded classicist known for his translations of Greek tragedies….In 1944, she followed her husband’s dream and moved to an Illinois farm. As a farmer’s wife and the mother of two children, she got up early to study and write philosophy before beginning farm work. In 1952, the family moved to a farm in Ireland, where the routine continued….The farm life taught her a lesson, she wrote in “A Philosophical Testament” (1995): “Agricultural duties and critical philosophies didn’t mix.”… In Chicago, she had met Michael Polanyi, a distinguished physical chemist turned philosopher; she ended up helping him research and develop his important book “Personal Knowledge” (1958). The book proposed a far more nuanced, personal idea of knowledge, and directly addressed approaches to science

Please click here for the full Times obituary.

Here is the obituary from the Los Angeles Times

Here is a good blog post about Dr. Grene from World’s Fair.

It would be great to be paid to think as was Dr. Grene. Though it is also good that we all have the ability to think about our lives and world around us to a greater extent than we often realize. Maybe some of the ideas discussed on one of the links above will be a springboard to new thoughts of our own.

People are smarter than they grasp.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

William Jennings Bryan & Heraclitus: In Conflict or In Agreement As To The Nature Of The Individual?

In his Cross of Gold speech at the 1896 Democratic Convention, William Jennings Bryan said, ” The individual is but an atom. He is born. He acts . He dies….”

In seeming contrast, the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “Everything we do or think depends on participation in the divine account.” 

These assertions appear at odds. How can an atomistic individual be part of the collective cosmic whole?

What Bryan says next in Cross of Gold gives a clue. He says—“…But principles are eternal.” 

In Bryan’s conception of life, atomistic individuals find connection with the whole in asserting the underlying principles that give life a greater meaning and coherence.

Read now what Heraclitus said about the actions of individuals—“But although the account is common, most men live as though they had an understanding of their own”

People live as they are seperate from the whole, but really this is not the case. 

I agree with both Bryan and Heraclitus. I see no conflict.

The extent to which you agree or disagree with these men might provide a clue as to your outlook on a number of questions of politics and life. 

Please click here to read about William Jennings Bryan.

Please click here to read the Cross of Gold Speech.

Please click here to read about Heraclitus.

November 14, 2007 Posted by | Political History, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment