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Obituary: REED, TOM


Tom Reed

1937 ~ 2010

Tom Reed was born in 1937 in Washington, D.C. and was raised in Sea Girt, New Jersey. He graduated with honors in economics from Trinity College (Conn.), where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and received the Ph.D. degree in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin. After teaching for some years at Wesleyan University he joined the Department of Philosophy at the University of Utah, where he taught for many years before his conscience brought closure to the endeavor. Tom's fields of specialization were in ethical theory, epistemology, philosophy of religion, and moral development and education. His many articles and reviews in these areas appeared in leading philosophical journals and his work in moral education was internationally recognized. Tom's objectives as a teacher were two-fold. At the introductory level he sought to encourage reflection about the deepest questions of human life. At the advanced level he tried to teach philosophizing by example, in the conviction that, philosophical analysis could itself be taught.

Although Tom won prestigious awards for his writing while in college, his attitude toward writing as such was one of total indifference. His love was philosophical thinking, and above all abstract criticism, and the efforts he devoted to these ends were strenuous.

Tom had many intellectual, practical, and personal commitments but his deepest value was autonomy. His view was that no convention offered reasons for action when considered by itself and that no accepted values were exempt from critical examination. Although Tom was committed /the values of abstract/to inquiry, his commitment to social and economic justice was equally as strong. He valued love, friendship, and humor, and had little tolerance for inauthentic attitudes and lack of integrity. He found deep joy during two periods his life, in the first of which he raised his daughter Elizabeth.

Tom's life was in many respects a difficult one and he incurred many debts of gratitude that he wished to have acknowledged. The person who conferred meaning on his life need not be identified as she is aware of her special status. Kathryn Berger had likewise a special status and her contributions to Tom's life were indispensable. Peggy Khaley taught him much about what is valuable in life.

The late Bill Whisner made an essential contribution, and Greg Smith kept Tom philosophically alive while demonstrating what a model friend could be. Other persons, living or departed, on an unjustly selective list included Rick Schalow, George Edison, Suzanne Tronier, Paul Kurtz, Mely Whiting, Jim Kimble, Lou Eastman, David Bennett, Renie Cohen, George Miller, Mendel Cohen, Mary Reddick, Joro Walker, Louis Mink, Peter Appleby, Al Cave, and Jerry Andersen. There were others whose temporary but nonetheless deep assistance proved vital: Jill Platske heads this list, which includes Paul Haanstad, Joe Ullian, and Susan Grant. But there were countless other people here omitted.

Tom considered his life to be about philosophy, He viewed himself as the luckiest of persons: pursuing the problems of philosophy was his overriding interest, and his life was such as to make this possible. To the many friends students who assisted in his attempted enterprise of authentic life and nought, he owed a debt which as he realized could never be repaid.

At Tom's request there will be no services.