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Ken Knisely (1957-2005)

George Leaman remembers a friend.

With these few lines we wish to honor Ken Knisely, the founder and host of the philosophy television program No Dogs or Philosophers Allowed. Ken died unexpectedly last September 25th, following surgery for cancer. He was 48 years old. Ken is survived by his wife Leslie and their kids Erik and Kirsten, and he will be greatly missed by everyone who was touched by his creative energy and generous good humor. His program reached tens of thousands of people in several countries, and just in terms of audience, Ken was one of the most influential philosophers of our life time, if not of all time.

As a high school philosophy teacher in the late 1980s, Ken experimented with video as a way of communicating the content of Plato’s dialogues to students interested in music videos. His show grew from this innovation, and he ultimately produced over 100 episodes, on topics as varied as The Conscious Mind, The Ethics of Consumption, Euthanasia, Genetic Engineering, Justifying Terrorism, Race and Racism, The Thinking of Evolution, and so on and on.

No Dogs or Philosophers Allowed became one of the most-honored local access cable programs in the US. It won eight first-place awards in the Hometown USA Video Festivals, and was nominated for a Cable Ace Award. Videotape and DVD versions of many of the shows are used to support philosophical instruction at 270 colleges and universities world-wide.

Ken believed that clear thinking can expand the scope of human freedom, and he was passionate about the idea that rational public discussion of complex problems is essential in a democratic society. Other philosophers have shared these views, but Ken was unique in his ability to show a mass audience that philosophy has something important to contribute to our understanding of urgent practical problems. He did this with a genuine interest in the views of others, and we will all miss his good example.

• A memorial scholarship fund has been started at H.B. Woodlawn. Contributions may be sent to H.B. Woodlawn Program, Ken Knisely Fund, 4100 Vacation Lane, Arlington, VA 22207.

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