George L. Kline (1921-2014)

By Grier, Philip T. | The Review of Metaphysics, March 2015 | Go to article overview

George L. Kline (1921-2014)


Grier, Philip T., The Review of Metaphysics


On October 21, 2014, the philosophical community lost a widely admired elder, George L. Kline, Milton C. Nahm Professor Emeritus of Bryn Mawr College, at age 93. He was a true polymath, known especially for his work on the philosophical systems of Spinoza, Hegel, and Whitehead, for his contributions to ethics and the philosophy of history, and for his remarkably broad grasp of the intellectual histories of numerous Eastern and Western European cultures, above all that of Russia. He was also lauded for his superbly skillful, sensitive translations of the poetry of four of the most important Russian poets of the twentieth century, Brodsky, Pasternak, Akhmatova, and Tsvetaeva. His association, collaboration, and eventually deep friendship with the poet Joseph Brodsky was one of the more personally significant pleasures of his life. He was a linguist of noteworthy talent, with substantial command of several languages, which he brought to bear in both his philosophical and his literary endeavors.

In recognition of his significant contributions to the field, he was elected president of the Metaphysical Society of America for 1985/86. During that same period (1984-86) he was simultaneously serving as president of the Hegel Society of America. For much of his career he was also a mainstay of the Society for the Study of Process Philosophies. In 2012 that Society devoted its annual meeting in conjunction with the M.S.A. to "The Process Philosophy of George L. Kline." In 1999 he received a special commendation "For Distinguished Contributions to Slavic Studies" from the A.A.A.S.S.

Kline was born on March 3, 1921, in Galesburg, Illinois. He attended Boston University for three years (1938-41), but then interrupted his education to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II as a lead navigator in B-24s, for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war he completed his undergraduate education with honors at Columbia College (1947), followed by graduate degrees at Columbia University (M.A. 1948; Ph.D. 1950).

One of the dominant patterns of activity throughout his 65-year career was established at the beginning when, in 1949, two of his first three published articles (all in that year, while still a graduate student) were on aspects of Russian and Soviet philosophy. His doctoral dissertation, published as Spinoza in Soviet Philosophy in 1952, continued the pattern, exploring the significance of a renaissance of Spinoza studies among Russian Marxists in the 1920s. The following year Kline published his authorized translation of V. V. Zenkovsky's History of Russian Philosophy in two volumes, establishing himself as the leading authority on the subject in the West, a reputation which he maintained throughout the remainder of his career by virtue of an extraordinary number of publications (and additional translations) in this area. …

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