Ken Taylor Tribute

Sunday, December 29, 2019

What Is It

The Philosophy Talk team is deeply saddened by Ken Taylor's untimely passing this month. Ken was the show's co-founder, longtime co-host, chief cheerleader, and guiding light. In this special episode, co-hosts Josh Landy and Debra Satz, along with host emeritus and co-creator John Perry, remember their colleague and friend. They also hear from past guests, former students, and others touched by Ken's life and work. 

If you're inclined to take a deep dive into Ken's personal background and life as a philosopher, then we think you'll thoroughly enjoy this extensive interview and his Stanford obituary. We're also touched and honored that Ken's family has requested that donations in his memory be made to Philosophy Talk. 



Josh Landy  
Welcome to Philosophy Talk the program that questions everything...

John Perry  
...except your intelligence. I'm John Perry.

Debra Satz  
I'm Debra Satz.

Comments (3)

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Saturday, December 14, 2019 -- 1:27 AM

Ken is dead.

Ken is dead.

What does this mean in terms of philosophy and science? Let me philosophize a bit, if only to make it better, because it doesn’t go anywhere but up from here.

What is death?

Just this year scientists brought a dead pig brain back to life. In so doing they cheated death. Science is amazing. It is worth mentioning technicians were ready to anesthetize the brain in case it showed any signs of distress. It did not. If it had, I don’t think our Chinese scientists who pick on monkey brains or flub human genes to counter odd fears of Aids would offer any consolation. America and Germany and other nations have scientists who have done far worse.

What is it to be human?

To a scientist, currently the answer to this question would be about the same as it was in stoic late antiquity when the Roman millennium or more was cresting it’s final wave. A human is a unique combination of mind and body.

Ken’s body was magnificent. A black bear of a man with a voice that I will hear until I too am dead, which will happen sooner than it will to you, probably.

Ken’s mind was a jewel. Along with John Perry, Ken made shrift of philosophical penitents who would confess their ignorance. In doing this, they would assume positions of fortitude to promote listeners, see-ers and readers to cut them down to their own liking. Somewhere in that cutting… Ken left his mind for others to enjoy. I enjoy that thought.

When I heard Ken was dead I thought to myself how best to celebrate him than to read his words, so I picked up his recent book ‘Meaning Diminished’ and read it… all night long. I found many items of Ken in those words; his humility, his patience, his frustration in his own incompetence and his hope. I thought I was so smart reading his book. I was finding communion with Ken when about ten pages in my philosophical bliss was rudely deflated when he took my firm held belief and dismissed me from consideration for a later date. Ken was smarter that I am. I would debate him on that, and he would win that debate in the making.

I am so pissed that PT took this tribute upon themselves without taking the time to make a live show in memoriam. If you never saw a live show… well… you didn’t miss much... except of course everything. Philosophy Talk is as produced a fine piece of art as any Rihanna or Bangtan Boys original. The people who made Ken’s work shine are evidenced in every word he spoke there and memorialized here without being called out. I would have flown down to share in this tribute.

Science, in current, has human beings as spike trains resident in interlocking circuits that sync and purr sometimes without even firing but just to be there making conscious philosophy. That was barely a sentence if it was and it is the best science can do at current to explain what it is to be human. The rest is left to philosophy.

What does Ken’s death mean philosophically?

This. This post you are reading. The you tube you view for the first time never having met the man. The book you would read. Most assuredly the touch of Ken’s hand when shook to thank him. The social words he did say and we do repeat.

We are our own spike trains feeding off the body sensations of a reality that once Ken shared and lives on in the trains of thought you are now thinking.

Thanks Ken.

btisler's picture


Thursday, January 9, 2020 -- 8:13 PM

I just wanted to say thank

I just wanted to say thank you, Ken. Your imprint on me will last. My heartfelt condolences to his family, Stanford, and all like myself who enjoyed Ken's learned perspective. Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God.

alexseen's picture


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