In Memoriam

G. Stanley Kane
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy

G. Stanley Kane was born April 3, 1938 and died on June 29, 2010. Stanley was born in China, the son of Christian missionaries, and he died in Garden, MI, on the Upper Peninsula, where he and his wife Nancy moved soon after Stanley’s retirement from Miami in 2001. Stanley died after a decade long journey through both some of the best and some of the most insensitive medical care available in the United States. He left behind grieving family members and friends, and an even larger contingent of admiring former students and colleagues. His accomplishments during an altogether too short life were varied, substantial, and of the highest quality.

Stan earned a Bachelor’s degree Summa Cum Laude from Barrington College in 1960, a Master of Arts from Brown University in 1961, and a Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Religion Program at Harvard University in 1968. Before coming to Miami University in 1972 to chair the Department of Philosophy, Stanley taught at Nyack Missionary College (1965-66), the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point (1967-69), and Illinois State University (1969-72). G. Stanley Kane was recruited to chair the Department of Philosophy at Miami after five of its seven members had, in the previous 3 years, resigned and moved elsewhere to research and teach, including the chair who resigned in protest over how the young philosophers he had hired had been treated by the University administration.

Stanley’s first scholarly endeavors in the philosophy of religion concentrated on St. Anselm and the theistic problems of free will and evil. Over the course of three decades, between 1967 and 1987, Stanley published a score of articles and one book on these topics, establishing himself as one of the foremost scholars of Anselm’s thought in these areas. He worked methodically and deliberately on his research, as he did in all of his endeavors. Stanley’s commitment to clarity and rigor in philosophical argument was singular: he had little patience for sloppiness or carelessness or superficiality in philosophical matters and no tolerance for these in his own work. At the same time, he was remarkably patient and tolerant of just these failings in the work of students who failed to meet his own demanding standards.

Later in his career, Stanley developed an interest in environmental philosophy and environmental ethics. He spent several years immersed in this rapidly growing body of literature before publishing his own thinking on such matters as “Restoration or Preservation? Reflections on a Clash of Environmental Philosophies.” During this period, roughly beginning in 1978 and continuing through retirement, Stanley developed and taught an undergraduate course in “Environmental Philosophy” and a graduate course on “Philosophical Issues in Ecology and Technology.” He worked extensively with Gene Willeke and the Institute of Environmental Sciences and served on the IES Executive Committee (1986-89 ).

Stanley’s engagement with environmental philosophy was both intellectual and personal, developed out of philosophical puzzlement, personal experience, and religious conviction. For many of the early years Stan and Nancy were at Miami, Stanley would take a significant portion of each summer to backpack in the Southwest, usually the canyon lands of Utah and Colorado. For weeks he would be immersed in this wilderness, either alone or with his good friend John Parks, finding that the experience “refreshed his battered spirits” after a demanding academic year of administration, teaching and research. Equally, it was a deep part of Stanley’s Christian conviction that we were duty bound to be responsible stewards of God’s creation. This experience and these convictions informed Stanley’s searching inquiries into the philosophical puzzles that arose from trying to work out how such a duty could be discharged by frail and flawed human beings in a highly diverse and pluralistic world.

While Stanley was at Miami, only two courses were required of all majors in philosophy: “Ancient Philosophy” and “Modern Philosophy.” Stanley taught both as he was the resident expert in the history of philosophy. While modern philosophy, from Descartes through Kant, generally got comprehensive coverage, ancient philosophy, ostensibly covering the pre-Socratics through Neo-Platonism, sometimes stalled with—if it even got to—Aristotle. So thorough and detailed was Stanley’s knowledge, so attentive to nuance and argument, that what others might have skimmed over, Stanley insisted on plumbing in depth. Semesters were consistently too short a period of time for Stanley to share all he knew on any topic with students, and to simultaneously challenge them to engage philosophy with the interest, intensity and enthusiasm he communicated. Students regularly expressed their appreciation for Stanley’s demanding yet generous teaching with glowing evaluations. One student, Steven J. Oscherwitz, wrote:

At the time I studied philosophy with Stan 1974 through 1976 at Miami, I was still struggling with how to express my own creativity in my writing. I wrote about complex issues…As I write these words now (2001) I think to myself, “My God! Couldn’t I have made my task simpler. Stan always encouraged me to write what I wanted to write about, regardless of the scholarly complexity. His notes on early modern philosophy, which I still have, were impeccable. Stan taught me, for the first time, to try to understand the importance of religion in philosophical thinking. Now thinking back with a somewhat more mature mind, I can safely say Stan, to me, was a brilliant teacher. . . What Stan taught me was trust, trust in my own endeavors. . . I thank you, Stan, for being an honest and trusting teacher. I also remember you being the epitome of the word COOL.

Another student, commenting on the introductory course on “Purpose and Chance in the Universe” that Stanley devised and taught for many years, said:

There are so many things I could say about Stan and Nancy Kane. I owe them an eternal debt of gratitude for their genuine love and kindness to me. Stan showed so much patience in dealing with me as a sophomore (and sophomoric) Christian fundamentalist attempting to evangelize an entire Purpose or Chance class, declaring that the point of the whole course was unimportant compared to what I had to say. For some reason, he continued to let me take his classes, and gradually I learned what it meant actually to think like a philosopher. It started with listening like one. From him, also, I began to understand what a genuinely Christian mind ought to be.

For all his gentleness, patience and tolerance, G. Stanley Kane was also a fierce competitor, as anyone with the temerity to play basketball opposite Stan learned. Hard charging to the basket, and aggressive on defense, Stanley’s frustrations with academic life yielded to intense physical activity. His colleagues of longest standing in the Department of Philosophy are likely to remember Stanley best for the passion, energy and integrity with which he defended his department’s interests and those of its members. Arriving as he did at a time of great mutual mistrust between the department and the University administration, Stanley labored long and hard to rebuild channels of communication, to reconcile conflict, to explain each adversary’s perception of the other to the other, and to be an honest broker to all. Long days and late nights, innumerable closely argued memoranda--often exceeding six single-spaced typewritten pages—endless meetings, an ever present willingness to listen to grievances—all this and more characterized the years Stanley chaired the department. Moreover, he succeeded in these efforts beyond what anyone could have reasonably predicted. Stanley successfully defended colleagues against charges of “poaching” on others territory (a course on perception distressed some colleagues in psychology, one on free schools enraged some in the school of education); he dissuaded the dean from merging the department with Religion; he supported two students, one graduate and one undergraduate, teaching a course on feminism under the supervision of a faculty member; he fended off petty criticisms that a faculty member might have put a thumb tack in a door; and, best of all in the view of some of us, he did much to secure tenure and promotion for some of the most controversial members of the department.

Most remarkable of all, however, is that Stanley as an administrator did all this with absolute integrity and candor, without any deception or dissembling, and by winning the trust of all those he engaged with. At the end of his first year at Miami, Dean C.K. “Bud” Williamson remarked, in his evaluation of Stanley, that:

Dr. G. Stanley Kane comes as close to the Miami ideal as any faculty member I have known. Whether the criterion is teaching ability, research and publication or service, Dr. Kane has an enviable record of achievement. The accomplishments are, in fact, so notable that it is difficult to believe one person can accomplish so much in so short a time.

And four years later, Provost David Brown remarked on Stan’s “almost unbelievable evaluation. Stan must share his secrets!” But there was no secret to be shared; only character to be emulated.

Respectfully submitted by: Michael Goldman, William McKenna, Richard Momeyer, Chair, S.S. Rama Rao Pappu, Asher Seidel, Gene Willeke, Edwin Yamauchi