Memorial Minutes for
Morris Grossman, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Fairfield University,
died on December 12, 2012, at the age of 90. He was one of the longest-standing
members of SAAP. An early meeting of the Society was held at Fairfield, and there
was a reception at Morris's Fairfield apartment—an occasion on which I first met
the colleagues who became my friends over the 40-plus years I have been a member
myself. Morris became one of the dearest of friends.
The facts of Morris's life are simple (though I would like to mention that in
looking up these facts I discovered that one Morris Grossman was a well-known
mobster in the early days of the twentieth century, killed in a mob hit; I think the
contrast of this Morris Grossman and our colleague would have been one that
amused him!). To return to our Morris, he was born in New York City and grew
up in Manhattan; his dad was a physician, his mom a fluent speaker of Yiddish (a
language whose music and nuances Morris always enjoyed.) Morris had a brother
(recently deceased) and sister (currently residing in Pennsylvania) with whom he
was very close. He continued his close family feelings with nephews and nieces, and
enjoyed the warmth of this extended family—for the most part! He was educated
at Stuyvesant High School, and received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Columbia
University. His Dissertation, defended in 1960, was "Santayana as Dramatist and
Dialectician: A Critical Estimate Made with the Help of Unpublished Manuscripts."
This exploration of Santayana was the basis of much of Morris Grossman's later
As Martin Coleman has already elegantly developed Morris Grossman's views
of Santayana and has gracefully summarized Morris' philosophic leitmotif:
An undeniable thematic unity runs through the last forty years of Morris
Grossman's work in which he explored the importance for philosophy, art, and
life of preserving the tension between that which may be unified and that which is
disorganized, random, and miscellaneous. He examined this tension in literature,
artistic performance, economics, statecraft, and human rights; in religion, drama,
sculpture, philosophical methodology, biography, and human attitudes toward
mortality; in the work of Gotthold Lessing, Lewis Carroll, Peirce, Tolstoy, James,
Sartre, and Beardsley; and most regularly in the work of George Santayana.
I shall not try to repeat Coleman's contribution. Rather I shall try to discuss
Morris in other terms: contributor to American philosophy in so many ways, pianist,
composer, lover of music and poetry, ironic and contrarian commentator, and
extraordinarily generous friend.
Let's start with his wonderful, irritating, often self-deprecating irony. In a review
of Richard Smyth's Reading Peirce Reading, Morris quoted Smyth saying '"It will
be recalled (Morris's italics) that Schiller's work was inspired by the failure of the
French Revolution and by the great question which that failure posed to the friends
of the revolution.' (p. 275) Truth to tell, it had slipped my mind!"