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Marjorie Grene

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Title: Marjorie Grene  
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Subject: Philosophy of biology, Existentialism, List of Wellesley College people, Randall Auxier, David Grene
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Marjorie Grene

Marjorie Glicksman Grene (December 13, 1910, Milwaukee, Wisconsin – March 16, 2009, Blacksburg, Virginia) was an American philosopher. She wrote both on existentialism and the philosophy of science, especially the philosophy of biology. She taught at the University of California at Davis from 1965 to 1978. From 1988 until her death she was Honorary University Distinguished Professor of philosophy at Virginia Tech.


  • Life and career 1
  • Family 2
  • Works 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Life and career

Her first degree was in zoology, from Wellesley College; she then received a doctorate in philosophy from Radcliffe College.

She studied with Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers, leaving Germany in 1933. She was in Denmark in 1935, and then at the University of Chicago. After losing her position there during World War II, she spent 15 years as a mother and farmer.[1] She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1976.[2]

Her obituary in The New York Times said she was "one of the first philosophers to raise questions about the synthetic theory of evolution, which combines Darwin’s theory of evolution, Mendel’s understanding of genetic inheritance and more recent discoveries by molecular biologists." She, along with co-author David Depew, wrote the first history of the philosophy of biology. In 2002, she was the first female philosopher to have an edition of the Library of Living Philosophers written about her.[3]

In 1995 the International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology established a prize for young scholars in her name. The Society said her name was chosen because "not only does her work in the history and philosophy of biology exemplify the strong spirit of interdisciplinary work fundamental to (the Society), but she played a central role in bringing together diverse scholars of biology even before the formation of the Society."[4]


From 1938 to 1961, she was married to David Grene, a classicist who also farmed in Illinois and in his native Ireland. She and David had two children,[5] Ruth Grene, a professor of plant physiology at Virginia Tech, and Nicholas Grene, Professor of English Literature at Trinity College, Dublin.


  • Philosophers Speak for Themselves: From Descartes To Kant. Readings in the Philosophy of the Renaissance and Enlightenment (1940) editor with Thomas Vernor Smith
  • Dreadful Freedom: A Critique of Existentialism (1948)
  • The World View of Physics by C. F. von Weizsäcker (1952) translator
  • Martin Heidegger (1957)
  • Philosophers Speak for Themselves: From Descartes to Locke (1958) editor with T. V. Smith
  • Introduction to Existentialism (1959)
  • A Portrait of Aristotle (1963)
  • Philosophers Speak for Themselves: Berkeley, Hume and Kant (1963) editor with T. V. Smith
  • The Knower and the Known (1966)
  • Approaches to a Philosophical Biology (1968)
  • The Anatomy of Knowledge: Papers Presented to the Study Group on Foundations of Cultural Unity, Bowdoin College, 1965 and 1966; (1969) editor
  • Toward a Unity of Knowledge (1969) editor
  • Laughing and Crying: A Study of the Limits of Human Behavior by Helmuth Plessner (1970) translator with James Spencer Churchill
  • Interpretations of Life and Mind: Essays Around the Problem of Reduction (1971) editor
  • Jean-Paul Sartre (1973)
  • Spinoza : A Collection of Critical Essays (1973) editor
  • The Understanding of Nature: Essays In The Philosophy Of Biology (1974)
  • Philosophy In and Out of Europe (1976) essays
  • Topics in the Philosophy of Biology (1976) editor with Everett Mendelsohn
  • Dimensions Of Darwinism : Themes And Counterthemes In Twentieth-Century Evolutionary Theory (1983) editor
  • Descartes (1985)
  • Spinoza And The Sciences (1986) editor
  • Muntu : African Culture and the Western World by Janheinz Jahn (1990) translator
  • Descartes Among the Scholastics (1991) Aquinas Lecture 1991)
  • Interactions. The Biological Context of Social Systems (1992) with Niles Eldredge
  • A Philosophical Testament (1995)
  • Descartes and His Contemporaries: Meditations, Objections, and Replies (1995) editor with Roger Ariew
  • The Mechanization of the Heart: Harvey and Descartes by Thomas Fuchs (2001) translator
  • Malebranche's First and Last Critics: Simon Foucher and Dortous De Mairan (2002) with Richard A. Watson;
  • Apology for Raymond Sebond by Montaigne (2003) translator with Roger Ariew
  • Philosophy of Biology: An Episodic History (2004) with David Depew
  • Knowing & Being: essays by Michael Polanyi, editor
  • Geoffroy Saint Hilaire by Hervé Le Guyader, translator

See also


  1. ^ Marjorie Grene dies at 98; historian of philosophy known as independent thinker | LA Times March 22, 2009
  2. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter G" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  3. ^ Marjorie Grene, a Leading Philosopher of Biology, Is Dead at 98 | New York Times, March 28, 2009
  4. ^ ISHPSSB prize page
  5. ^ LA Times obituary.

Further reading

  • The Philosophy of Marjorie Grene (2002), edited by Randall E. Auxier and Lewis Edwin Hahn

External links

  • Interview in Believer Magazine
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