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11/3/2016 » 11/5/2016
Philosophy Born of Struggle XXIII

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Memorial Minutes, 2012
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R. G. Frey, 1941–2012

R. G. Frey passed away in November 2012. He was professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), where he had taught and served as a senior researcher at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center since 1986. Known for his numerous and wide-ranging books and articles in moral and political philosophy, he was one of the foremost utilitarians of his generation.

Professor Frey (or "Ray” to those who knew him) lived, learned, and taught in both England and the United States. He received his B.A. from the College of William and Mary in 1966 and his M.A. from the University of Virginia in 1968. Then he moved to England to complete his D.Phil from Oxford University in 1974 under the supervision of R. M. Hare.

Frey began his career at the University of Liverpool, first as lecturer (1974-1978) and then as senior lecturer (1978-1986). After stints as a visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto (1981-1982) and BGSU (1984), he became professor of philosophy at BGSU in 1986 and remained there until his retirement in 2010. He also held academic appointments as a fellow at the Westminster Institute of Ethics and Public Policy (1991-1997) and as a senior research fellow at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University (1986-2000).

Frey taught and published in various areas of moral, political, and legal philosophy. He wrote about the history of philosophy, including eighteenth-century British debates about ethics and epistemology involving Bishop Joseph Butler. He wrote and spoke extensively about proper methods and particular issues in normative ethics, applied ethics, and social philosophy. His work emphasized the fruitfulness of utilitarian forms of moral reasoning, and he applied his perspectives to debates about human rights, animal welfare, suicide, medical treatment, and experimentation.

Frey was a productive author and editor, both on his own and in partnership with others. He was the sole author of over 100 academic articles and book chapters, as well as the books Interests and Rights (1980) and Rights, Killing, and Suffering (1984). He co-authored the book Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide with Gerald Dworkin and Sissela Bok (1998). He was the sole editor of books like Utility and Rights (1984) and The Works of Joseph Butler (1995). He co-edited three books with Christopher Morris: Liability and Responsibility (1991), Violence, Terrorism, and Justice (1991), and Value, Welfare, and Morality (1992). He also co-edited Social Policy and Conflict Resolution with Thomas Attig and Donald Callen (1985), The Companion to Applied Ethics with Christopher Wellman (2003), and the Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Animals with Tom Beauchamp (2011).

Frey was prolific beyond his own research projects. As a general editor, he commissioned works for Cambridge University Press on applied ethics and applied philosophy generally for their For and Against series. As a voracious yet careful reader of the works of others, he wrote over seventy-five book reviews for academic journals. As a speaker, he delivered over eighty papers and presentations in the United States and abroad. As a colleague, he was instrumental in launching Bowling Green State University’s innovative Ph.D. program in applied philosophy. Finally, as a teacher and mentor, he supervised to completion ten doctoral dissertations in less than twenty years.

In his teaching, his mentoring, and his day-to-day interactions with colleagues, Ray was well known for his ability to tell stories. These were practical stories, about his life and the people and moral dilemmas he had occasion to encounter. These were entertaining stories, told with evident relish and care. These were remarkable stories, full of improbability and intrigue. And yet, these were true stories. (Well, mostly true stories—he was a proud act-utilitarian, after all. . .)

Ray was admired and enjoyed by those who knew him, whether as a colleague, teacher, mentor, or friend. He had a special way of being more than one of those things to many of those he knew. A memorial conference in his honor took place at Bowling Green State University on April 6, 2013, where current and former students and colleagues gathered and shared fond recollections of his life and work. Ray will be sorely missed. Indeed, he is already sorely missed.

- Russell DiSilvestro, California State University-Sacramento
- John Milliken, LCC International University

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