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  • Joseph Grange as Teacher
  • Jim Behuniak (bio)

There is not much of a substantive nature to add to Robert Neville’s thorough and thoughtful exposition of Grange’s work in systematic cosmology. I wish to pick up briefly, however, on where Neville leaves off, namely on the topic of “soul” and on the “astonishingly transformative” nature of Grange as a teacher. I had the good fortune to have Professor Grange as my very first philosophy teacher, and I feel that further comment on this aspect of his life is necessary to complete this remembrance.

Joseph Grange spent nearly forty years teaching undergraduate students at the University of Southern Maine, in Portland. His four decades of teaching included occasional assignments in China and also at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. At the latter, Grange conducted seminars on figures like John Dewey, introducing graduate students like Sor-hoon Tan to Dewey’s philosophy. So, he certainly made his mark on students of comparative philosophy beyond the State of Maine. My comments, however, will focus on the vocation to which he devoted the largest share of his energies: undergraduate teaching. It was here that Grange displayed a “mastery of the thing” for which he is fondly remembered by so many. Since Grange never discussed teaching explicitly in his writings, I turn to the chapter of Soul: A Cosmology titled “Eloquence Arising.”1 Here, Grange uses Peirce’s categories of firstness, secondness, and thirdness to describe how Soul through its eloquence comes to achieve “stable places of genuine stature in the life of a community.”2 Since for Dewey and Confucius education means precisely this, enabling others to find “stable places of genuine stature in the life of a community,” it is to “Eloquence Arising” that I turn for insight into what Grange represented as an educator.

Grange was keenly aware of the forces arrayed against the formation of Souls. The dangers of withdrawal and the “speed factor” of contemporary life are important themes in this chapter.3 With respect to these, Grange issues two warnings relevant to educators: first, without the depth of presence, “Soul drifts back into a morbid existence scarcely noticed by the human community”; and second, without the fullness of the past, present, and future, “the expressive tone of Soul cannot be felt.”4 Indicted here is the growing multitude of electronic devices that “capture the attention of Soul.”5 Such devices threaten the sanctity of our classrooms as well. The battle against such diversions, for Grange, was a battle for the Souls of the young. This sounds very religious — and it is. After all, “the essence of education,” said Whitehead, “is that it be religious.”6 What this meant for Whitehead is that education must aim to “inculcate duty and reverence.”7 For Grange, the involvement of Soul in the human community and its nourishment in the fullness of lived experience must be protected from the modern instruments of withdrawal [End Page 677] and speed. Such diversions hamper the formation of duty and reverence; they impoverish Soul.

As Grange contends, “contemporary media knows nothing about firstness for it confuses it with gaining attention.”8 Admittedly, those of us who teach are often no different: we aim first at getting our students’ attention, relying on gimmicks and theatrics to do the trick. Grange cautions, however, that “false firstness leaves the viewer awaiting the next thrill.”9 Gaining attention is not the first step to effective teaching. As Grange reminds us, “first there must be firstness.”10 The element of novelty, spontaneity, freshness, and discovery must emerge, and it cannot be “caused” by any excitement or flamboyance of the teacher. Grange himself wore many shades in the classroom: calm, animated, furious, silent, hilarious, and pensive — each one riveting. None of these tones “caused” the sparkle of life and interest that came upon his students. “The felt tone of firstness is surprise,” Grange writes, something “felt with stunning immediacy. Upon being expressed, it summons direct participation. It is its own originality.”11 Creating conditions for this to happen is the most elusive element in the art of teaching. Grange completely mastered this element. Plato considered it a sacred moment...


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