A Tribute to Ken Taylor

04 December 2019

I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Ken Taylor, a long time friend, colleague, and co-host. Stunned, actually. A great man with a wonderful family, who have my deepest sympathy. I always thought of Ken as my younger brilliant energetic colleague. It wasn't his turn to die.

Ken came to Stanford in 1995. It wasn’t easy to lure him away from Rutgers, then and now one of the very top philosophy departments. We had a strong department, but also had California and Stanford as considerations on our side. Ken, his lovely and accomplished wife Claire, and their son Kiyoshi added a lot to California. Ken quickly became a leader in the department, an esteemed teacher, the advisor for many distinguished Ph.D.s and an important voice on campus. He chaired the department and served on the Academic Senate. At the same time his body of work, mainly in the philosophy of language and related areas, already impressive when he arrived from Rutgers, continued to flourish, with three additional books, all important, and a fourth on the verge of being submitted—Ken told us this on Facebook, the day he died.

In 2005 Ken and I started Philosophy Talk, the program that “questions everything except your intelligence,” with some generous help from then Provost John Etchemendy. It has aired weekly on KALW since then. Starting with KALW and Oregon Public Radio, it has grown to well over one hundred stations, from several countries. Ken and I were co-hosts until I sort of ran out of gas a couple of years ago; since that time Josh Landy and Debra Satz have been co-hosts, although Debra is presently a bit distracted by being Stanford's Dean of H&S. 

Ken was a person of dynamism and determination. He put together a great support staff for the show, starting with Ben Manilla at the helm as producer, and now Devon Strolovitch for many years. Laura Maguire, one of Ken’s Ph.D. students, has long co-ordinated research for Philosophy Talk, involving Stanford undergraduates to develop topics and suggests guests—a system that was all Ken’s idea.

Ken’s passing is a great loss not only to his family and close friends, but to all who were inspired by his research and teaching. And those who were intrigued by his opinions, readily available on the radio and in print: always presented with reason, often anticipating issues, problems and positions not yet conceptualized by others, usually insightful and always presented forcefully and confidently.  

Comments (4)

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Wednesday, December 4, 2019 -- 4:07 PM



This is the first I have heard of this. I've listened to him for years and introduced myself when PT did a show locally. I thanked him at the time but it was nowhere near enough for all the hours I have spent in his company on PT.

I've taken to his manner about talking of important and profound questions - noting to give heed and think harder.

I will miss him terribly.

Everyone who knew him, his family ... you have my sympathy.

This was not the update I signed up for here. I will make it a point this coming year to read his works and remember a truly great man.

Thanks so much for this remembrance. I'm so sorry John. I could tell his respect and friendship for and with you was "deep".

Let us all take time to think of Ken.

He was a great human and mind.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, December 5, 2019 -- 9:51 AM

My sympathies are likewise

My sympathies are likewise extended, though I did not know Mr. Taylor, I enjoyed his insights and cordial manner.

Hold on. I'm still thinking.'s picture

Hold on. I'm st...

Friday, December 6, 2019 -- 9:39 AM

I will be lost without Ken

I will be lost without Ken Taylor on KALW's Philosophy Talk. When I discovered Philosophy Talk on public radio in San Francisco, I hadn't felt that connected to the discussion of philosophy since listening to the recorded shows of Bryan Magee's interviews with philosophers on BBC. I can only imagine the gaping hole left in the hearts and minds of those who knew him well and will feel such loss. I'm so grateful that we have these recordings and writings of his thoughtful illuminations

Zcounselor's picture


Thursday, January 2, 2020 -- 10:25 PM

10pm on OPB and a sharp

10pm on OPB and a sharp intake of breath hearing that Ken Taylor has died. I can’t remember when I started listening to PT but I was captivated by every broadcast and the wonderful voices of the hosts, especially Ken’s. I was always impressed with the courtesy both hosts showed to all the callers. When Ken and John brought the show to Portland, we immediately got tickets. It was like getting to see your favorite superstar! Condolences to all who worked with Ken and to his family.