In Memory, R.G. Frey

Professor of Philosophy,

Bowling Green State University



It is with regret that we announce the death of Professor Raymond G. Frey.  Ray was Professor Emeritus at BGSU, and a Senior Researcher at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center.  He joined the faculty at BGSU in 1986, having previously taught at Liverpool from 1974-86.  He is well-known for his numerous books and articles in moral and political philosophy.  His work is wide-ranging, and included important contributions in applied ethics.  Ray was also instrumental in launching Bowling Green’s innovative and highly successful Ph.D. in Applied Philosophy.

Memorial Gathering: April 6, 2013

An event was held in the BGSU Philosophy Department on Saturday April 6, 2013 to share memories of and acknowledge the contributions made to many lives by Professor Frey.  Many former colleagues and students attended, shared stories about Professor Frey and some poster talks were given in his honor.  Sound recordings of the speeches can be heard by clicking on the links below, and there is also a slideshow of pictures taken that day.

April 6 Recording Part I

April 6 Recording Part II

April 6 Recording Part III

April 6 Recording Part IV

April 6 Recording Part V

April 6 Recording Part VI

April 6 Recording Part VII

Other Links:

Professor Frey's Curriculum Vitae

Memorial Minutes notice about Professor Frey for the American Philosophical Association

Video of Tom Regan speaking about Professor Frey


Frey Speech on Regan

Memories and Tributes

If any former students, colleagues or friends of Ray's would like to share memories of or tributes to Ray, we will post them on this page.  Please email them to Ian Young at

  •  I would like to thank everyone who knew or came in contact with my Uncle Raymond for writing the amazing tributes.  All of your kind words and stories of your friendships, be it business or personal, has truly raised our spirits during our family mourning.  For our family to see such an outpouring of emotions from his friends helps us understand that he not only enriched our lives but the lives of others. Our family will not forget your stories that we knew little of.
    I believe the stories you have told truly capture Uncle Raymond’s humanity and are a testament to his life’s work; there is no better way to say it. Thank you all for taking the time to let us know some extraordinary examples of the impact he provided. Last but certainly not least, I would like to express our genuine thanks from our hearts to Bowling Green University Staff, Faculty and students who touched Ray life. He truly enjoyed everyone at Bowling Green, I honestly believe he thought of all of you as family.

    John A. Eggler
    Chief Petty Officer
    U.S.NAVY Retired

  • Our paths did not cross often, but one of the few encounters that I had with Ray suggests his intellectual commitment and generosity of spirit. During a break at a conference, when Ray and were chatting, he urged me
    to collect my papers on Mill in a book, which I had not considered before.  I was pretty sure he did not agree with several of my views, but his interest in vigorous discussion of the issues clearly took precedence.  We are in his debt.
    David Lyons
  • The best advice Dr. Frey ever gave me about publishing: "You've written a paper of the form, 'dog bites man.'  What you need is a paper of the form, 'man bites dog.'  That's the sort of paper that gets published."  
    Ben Dyer
    BGSU Philosophy Graduate Student
  • I was sorry to hear about the passing of Ray Frey.  He was an important part to the success of the Bowling Green philosophy program.  Ray was a wonderful colleague who always managed to get a smile, if not a laugh, our of everyone.  We spent many hours listening to Ray's stories, especially during our Wednesday meetings for lunch at a local Italian restaurant.  He will be missed by all who knew him.
    Jim Stuart
    BGSU Emeritus Philosophy Faculty
  • Thumbing through Leiter before bed, my heart sank as I read the note about Dr. Frey. Many memories came to the fore, all amusing and warm ones. My first graduate seminar in philosophy was Dr. Frey's proseminar on "causing vs allowing." Week after week we would sit mesmerized by his lectures eschewing any difference, interspersed with stories (of course). His story telling was so good that on one occasion he brought a fellow graduate student to exclaim in serious horror "Oh Jesus" as he carefully painted the picture of a man who was "so ugly, that no one would look at him, blind so that he could not see, deaf so that he could not hear." And..."missing both legs." Frey made a philosophical point about quality of life as no one else quite could, as he so often did. I really did adore him, with that wonderful smile and twinkle in his eye. I am sad that he is no longer in this world.
    J.S. Blumenthal-Barby PhD, MA (previously Jenny Sproul Swindell--MA BG 2002)
    Baylor College of Medicine
  • It is hard to believe he is gone; it is easy to believe he is still here.  I expect that the next time I come to Shatzel Hall and pass by his office, I'll see a familiar sign. Written with a blue felt tip pen, the familiar handwriting will say,
                               I am not in

                          DO NOT DISTURB

                             Do not knock

                     (and that means you, Morris)

    I will, of course, knock. And he will, of course, reply, "What do you want, Morris?"  Next I'll hear him say, "I did not tell you could come in!", followed by, "I did not say you could sit down."  The conversation will continue, "I have no time for idle chit-chat. I don't see how I alone can keep this Dept (or Western Civilization) afloat... So, what do you want to bother me with?..."  "Why don't we go grab a cup of coffee? Be ready in five minutes; I can't wait for you... Oh, I expect you will insist that I drive you to Grounds for Thought... Well, I'm not going to treat you again..."
    Christopher Morris
    University of Maryland, College Park
  • Ray told my graduate cohort that he studied with R. M. Hare at Oxford, under the old tutorial method. Students wrote and defended a paper every week. When Frey would arrive and settle in, Hare would seat himself across the table and grasp the hapless student’s tie, and then ask his first question. “If you said something stupid,” Frey told us in his inimitable tones, “Hare would jerk down hard on the necktie.” I find it hard to believe that Ray was jerked around very much.
    Another Freyism on his non-pedestrian lifestyle: “Thomas Hobbes said that life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short—and that may be true for some—but I like to live dangerously. That’s the sort of thing I go in for.”
    Ray was always kind and encouraging to me, even as he said I was probably raised too well to be a professional philosopher. I mourn his death and recall his generosity with gratitude. As long as the Namby Pamby View is defended—and surely Ray knew, deep down, that that will be as long as the species survives—the work of Ray Frey will infuriate many who encounter it, then impress, then inspire.
    Gene Torisky

    BGSU Philosophy M. A. cohort of 1991-92
    Saint Vincent College
  • I knew Ray personally for many years and in 2001-2002 he was a visiting scholar here at Liberty Fund. Besides being a first rate philosopher and personal friend, Ray brought to our offices a sense of humor and good cheer that is seldom matched. He was also a marvelous story teller, and during the time he was here was paired with an equally good story teller, namely George Martin who was President of Liberty Fund at the time. Each morning in the coffee room one could easily entertain oneself as Ray and George would trade stories--each trying to outdo the other. One was never quite sure if the stories were always true, or the whole truth, but it didn't much matter. The pleasure of listening to them was enough. One little such story I can relay here that always stuck with me was the following: Ray said he was flying to a Liberty Fund conference and was seated next to a woman who began to talk to him, finally asking what he did for a living. Ray told her that he was a philosopher. She paused a minute or so to reflect and then asked him, "What are your sayings?"
    Douglas J. Den Uyl
    Vice President of Educational Programs
    Liberty Fund, Inc.

  • I first met Dr. Frey in 1997 or 98 when I was an undergrad at Oberlin College and helped organize a conference on the ethics of the use of animals in scientific research.  The two philosophers we invited to this conference were R.G. Frey and Tom Regan.  Frey’s opinions on the moral status of animals were contradictory to my own views.  Nevertheless, he was part of the reason I chose to enter BGSU’s Ph.D. program in philosophy.  I later went on to choose Frey as my advisor for a dissertation on animal rights.  Despite holding ethical views so different from my own, I believe I benefited tremendously from Frey’s mentorship.  He challenged my beliefs about animal consciousness and animal ethics in many ways.  “Do you think that birds desire to fly south in the winter or do they just do it?” he once asked me.  His constant questioning forced me to reflect on my beliefs and to defend or alter them in ways that I probably would not have done if I’d had an advisor who agreed more with my own views.  I greatly appreciate the significant role he played in shaping my mind as a philosopher, making me into a much stronger, more analytic thinker.   I remember once, during one of our many conversations at Grounds for Thought, Dr. Frey asked me, “You know how sometimes philosophers will say ‘Well, no one would ever hold that view’?”  He replied, “That’s the view that I like to defend.”    
    Aaron Simmons
    Grand Valley State University
  • I was fortunate to have many classes with Dr. Frey. I will remember his humor above all else. I use many of his examples with my students today. Ray not only made me a better philosopher, he made me a better teacher
    Amy White

  • I knew Ray long before I came to BGSU in 2005, but having him as a colleague allowed us to meet--often weekly--for beer or coffee to discuss our mutual interests and work in applied ethics and philosophy. We also swapped stories; often he talked about his Oxford years.  Ray was insightful, witty, and generous. I enjoyed his company and appreciated his critical comments on my own work. Philosophy has lost a great man and those who knew Ray have lost a dear friend and colleague.
    George Agich

  • We'll miss Ray, just as we missed him when he retired.  I wish my friends and family whom he had not met still had the chance.  I think he suffered a great deal the last couple years, but wouldn't let you know it.  He was always cheerful, funny, eloquent, and brave, even as is health and independence and abandoned him.  Ray would not let others grieve for him. Ray was a remarkable person, especially by his own account--having lived a life full of intrigue, international adventure, extraordinary magnanimity and civic honor.  His mischievous cherub's smile was his only cue that it was your job to try to sort fact from fiction.  It's hard to acknowledge that he's not coming back, one more time, to share a cup of coffee with us at Grounds for Thought--"Please, join me, and don't think of paying, I'm more than happy to buy a, SINGLE, SMALL, cup of regular coffee for you--regardless of the cost!"  I'm also most deeply saddened that Ray won't finish the manuscripts he was so keen to complete in retirement.

    After talking with others since his departure, I've come to realize Ray saved almost everyone in the department's job at sometime or other.   In my own case (and now it appears many others), faculty members met privately and conspired to have me "tossed to the street immediately" for "universal incompetence."  This happened on at least two occasions, and each time Ray rose and spoke in my defense.  The first time, by explaining that I could serve as a useful example to our graduate students about how their lives might turn out if they don't shape up; and on the second occasion, Ray successfully pleaded that I be retained, for given my "manifest unsuitability for any line of employment" I'd surely die shortly after dismissal.

    The following are some Freyism's I've collected:

    "I heard you've been frolicking lately.  Please continue, as I will bear the burden, manning my post at the coal face, 24-7."

    "Just because you’ve led a pedestrian life, does not mean I have." (A standard response to incredulity)

    “I believe that is my pen.”  (Regarding any pen in your hand or on your desk).

    “He’s as intelligent as anyone I've met, if I’m right about here (raises his hand to his chin),
    then he’s right about here (lowers hand his belt)”

    “If you need anything, anything at all, please hesitate to ask.”

    “I’m worried there may be a fire drill during my class; I've decided it may be best to cancel in advance.”

    “Some people do not have the stomach for virtue.”

    “Upon my birth, all of Paris celebrated.”

    "Let us call your view the “Namby Pamby view' and mine 'The Correct View.'"

    "I'm very sorry to hear that!  But cheer up and look on the bright side, it could have happened to me."

    “No need to call me ‘Dr. Frey’, please just call me 'the A-team’”

    “Everyone tells me that you are not smart enough to be here.
    But I always defend you; I tell them that you’ve had a hard life.”

    “Carry on, and be good”

    Christian Coons
    BGSU Philosophy Faculty
  • My heart is breaking at the news of Ray's passing.  He will live forever in our memories of his splendid stories, his brilliant mind, and affable manner.  He touched the lives of so many and will never be forgotten.
    Lynn Child
  • I took one class from Prof. Frey and at the end of it I had no idea what exactly I'd learned, but I knew that I was a lot smarter than I was before.
    Corwin Carr
    BGSU Grad student
  • Ray taught me how to toy with ideas, and view the unexpected consequences; he was as intellectually brutal as Socrates, maybe more.  I thought if he didn't take me as his PhD advisee, I'd move for an MBA instead.  I'm glad that he did.
    Piotr Boltuc
    Professor of Philosophy
    University of Illinois at Springfield
  • Dr. Frey taught me how to think analytically in moral philosophy. Nobody can forget his prompt, lively, inimitable Freyan fashion in undercutting students’ arguments for and/or against whatever issue was in question with counterexamples that became amusingly notorious. But, most of all, I shall not forget the concern and generosity he showed me at difficult times while, simultaneously, maintaining his stern, seemingly intimidating posture.For a Philosophy department that had the honor to have Raymond Frey in its midst, I propose a great MEMORIAL PHILOSOPHICAL SYMPOSIUM in his honor that those of us who knew him can help to organize.
    Vassiliki Leontis
    Ph.D. student
  • He and his work will be remembered.
    Rado Kotorov
    BGSU PhD Graduate
  • I am so sorry to hear of Ray Frey's passing.  I adored him as a teacher and had so much respect for him as a philosopher.
    But I know, too, that he was a big-hearted human being and that you too had great affection for him. 
    Ben Dixon
    BGSU PhD Graduate
  • Sorry to hear about Ray. He was an old crusty dude when I was there but a great professor and mentor in many ways. He will be a loss to philosophy, but even more to the world of ideas.
    Kerry R. Stewart, Ph.D.
    Professor of Political Science, Philosophy
    and Environmental Studies
    Gainesville State College
  • I am sorry to hear this. Dr. Frey was an interesting and motivating professor. He taught me a lot about philosophy and about life. He will be missed by many people.
    Pam Ryan
  • Freyism: The view that all views but one's own should be renamed "The Namby-Pamby View." R.G. Frey (1941-2012); may he rest optimifically.
    David Faraci
    Virginia Tech
  • I remember at my MA Portfolio Exam, he was pressing me on a particular example by forcing me into a dilemma, as he liked to do, and I said "Hmmm.  That's a tricky question."  His reply was "Yes it is.  That's the point."  I'll never be able to think of blowtorches without also thinking of him.
    Ian Young
    BGSU Philosophy Faculty

Updated: 08/31/2021 12:01PM