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Saturday, April 09, 2016

Hilary Putnam: One of the most influential philosophers of our time | Irish Times

"Obituary: His earliest writing focused on philosophy of mathematics and science" inform Irish Times.

Photo: Hilary Putnam, Cogan University Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard
Hilary Putnam, Cogan University Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard, was one of the most influential philosophers of our time. His extraordinarily wide-ranging contributions, spanning 24 books and over 300 articles, are unusual not only because of their originality, but also for a fearless habit of criticising and rethinking his views. This radical practice of philosophy also brought him into conversation with numerous philosphers, giving an unmatched breadth to his work. He was also unique in his ability to re-set the research agenda in key areas of philosophies of science, mathematics, language and mind.

In 1927, when Hilary was six months old, the family moved to Paris where his father, Samuel Putnam, translated the works of Rabelais and edited the literary magazine The New Review. Putnam grew up in the cosmopolitan artistic world of Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Elliot, Joyce, and Ford Madox Ford. His upbringing contributed to a distaste for the narrowness and insularity of much of contemporary philosophy. The blog Sardonic Comment, which he launched in 2013 and kept going until the onset of ill health in October 2015, is a testament to his commitment to inclusivity.

Putnam’s earliest writing focused on philosophy of mathematics and science. Two central arguments, the “indispensability argument” in philosophy of mathematics and the “no-miracle argument” in philosophy of science, advance the claim that we are unable to explain the successes of scientific theories unless we assume that they provide true accounts of how things stand in the world. Both arguments remain central to philosophical discussions of science and mathematics. In addition to his philosophical work, Putnam’s co-publication with M. Davis and J Robinson, of a proof of Hilbert’s Tenth Problem, established him as a major figure in mathematics, giving further support to the claim by many, including his life-long friend Noam Chomsky, that he was one of the finest minds of our time.

Putnam’s most influential contributions are to philosophy of language and mind.
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Related link
Hilary Putnam  - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Source: Irish Times


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