The Grice Club


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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Putnam, of all people


"Putnam, of all people, complained that I was too formal" -- Paul Grice, "Prejudices and predilections, which become the life and opinions of Paul Grice.

Hilary Putnam was influenced by H. P. Grice and he would quote from Grice and Baker.

Hilary Whitehall Putnam was born in Chicago, Illinois.
Putnam's father, Samuel Putnam, was a scholar of Romance languages -- that is, French, Italian, etc. --, columnist and translator who wrote for The Daily Worker, a publication of the American Communist Party, from 1936 to 1946 (when he became "disillusioned with communism," he told his son.
As a result of his Samuel Putnam's commitment to communism, Hilary Whitehall Putnam had a secular upbringing, although his mother, Riva, was Jewish.
The Putnams lived "somewhere" in France (to invite an implicature once invited by Grice) until 1934, when they returned to the United States, settling in Philadelphia.
Hilary Whitehall Putnam attended Central High.
There he met Noam Chomsky (who quotes Paul Grice as "A. P. Grice" in "Aspects of the theory of syntax") who was a year behind him.
The two had been friends—and often intellectual opponents—ever since (Chomsky's mother was also Jewish).
Putnam studied philosophy at Pennsylvania, receiving his BA and becoming a member of The Philomathean Society, one of the oldest collegiate literary societies in the U.S.
("The name of the Society impressed me," he would later say).
Putnam went on to do graduate work in philosophy at Harvard and later at UCLA where he received his Ph.D. in 1951 for a dissertation entitled
"The Meaning of the Concept of Probability in Application to Finite Sequences".
-- it was accepted as being 'philosophical' because of the use of 'meaning' which obsessed him from then onwards.
Putnam's teacher Hans Reichenbach, his dissertation supervisor, was a leading figure in logical positivism -- famous for his "All-swans-are-white" paradox) the dominant school of philosophy of the day.
One of Putnam's most consistent positions has been his rejection of logical positivism as self-defeating, and we can safely say that Reichenbach never ADVISED him so!

After briefly teaching at Northwestern, Princeton, and MIT --an institute of technology, rather than a uni -- he moved to Harvard (a few blocks north) in 1965 with his wife, Ruth Anna Jacobs, who took a teaching position in philosophy at Wellesley College.
By this time, Grice was giving a lecture at Wellesley College.
Hilary and Ruth Anna were married in 1962.
Ruth Anna Jacobs, descendant of a family with a long scholarly tradition in Gotha (her ancestor was the German classical scholar Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Jacobs), was born in Berlin, Germany, to anti-Nazi political-activist parents and, like Putnam himself, she was raised an atheist (her mother was Jewish and her father had been from a Christian background).
The Putnams, rebelling against the anti-Semitism that they had experienced during their youth, decided to establish a "traditional Jewish" home for their children.
Since they had no experience with the rituals of Judaism, the Putnams sought out invitations to other Jews' homes for Seder.
They later said that they had "no idea how to do it themselves".
They therefore began to study the Jewish ritual and the Hebrew language, and became more Jewishly interested, identified, and active.
Hilary Putnam will go on to celebrate a belated Bar Mitzvah service, while his wife had a Bat Mitzvah service.
Hilary was a popular "prof" at Harvard.
In keeping with the family tradition, he was politically active.
He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He was elected President of the American Philosophical Association.
He was appointed as Walter Beverly Pearson Professor of Mathematical Logic (recall Grice, "philosophy, like virtue, is entire") in recognition of his contributions to philosophy of logic and mathematics -- that is, to philosophy, which, like virtue, is entire.
Putnam was a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, while Grice was a FBA simpliciter.
Putnam later said, "I never did have to correspond, though!"
Putnam retired from teaching philosophy, but -- "once a philosopher, always a philosopher", he continued to give a yearly seminar at Tel Aviv.
Putnam held the Spinoza Chair of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam.
He was appointed the Cogan Professor Emeritus at Harvard.
He is also a founding patron of the small liberal arts college, Ralston.
Due to Putnam's contributions in philosophy and logic, he was awarded the Prometheus Prize of the American Philosophical Association and the Rolf Schock Prize.
He was awarded the Nicholas Rescher Prize for Systematic Philosophy.
Putnam lived in Boston.
His work includes:
The "Innateness Hypothesis" and Explanatory Models in Linguistics, Synthese, Vol. 17, No. 1
Philosophy of Mathematics: Selected Readings. Edited with Paul Benacerraf. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 2nd ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-29648-X
Philosophy of Logic. New York: Harper and Row, London: George Allen and Unwin, ISBN 0-04-160009-6
Mathematics, Matter and Method. Philosophical Papers, vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd. ed., paperback: ISBN 0-521-29550-5
Mind, Language and Reality. Philosophical Papers, vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, paperback: ISBN 0-521-29551-3
Meaning and the Moral Sciences. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Reason, Truth, and History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, paperback: ISBN 0-521-29776-1
Realism and Reason. Philosophical Papers, vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, paperback: ISBN 0-521-31394-5
Methodology, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Science: Essays in Honour of Wolfgang Stegmüller. edited with Wilhelm K. Essler and Carl G. Hempel. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.
Epistemology, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science: Essays in Honour of Carl G. Hempel. edited with Wilhelm K. Essler and Wolfgang Stegmüller. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.
The Many Faces of Realism. La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, ISBN 0-8126-9043-5
Representation and Reality. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-66074-1
Realism with a Human Face. edited by James F. Conant. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 9780674749450 Description. ISBN 0-674-74945-6
Renewing Philosophy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 9780674760943 Description. ISBN 0-674-76094-8
Pursuits of Reason: Essays in Honor of Stanley Cavell. edited with Ted Cohen and Paul Guyer. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, ISBN 0-89672-266-X
Words and Life. edited by James F. Conant. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 9780674956070 Description. ISBN 0-674-95607-9
Pragmatism: An Open Question. Oxford: Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-19343-X
The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World. New York: Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-10287-9
Enlightenment and Pragmatism. Assen: Koninklijke Van Gorcum,
The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Ethics Without Ontology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life: Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, Wittgenstein. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Philosophy in an Age of Science. edited by Mario De Caro and David Macarthur. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press
H. P. Grice cites Putnam in "Prejudices and predilections, which become the life and opinions of Paul Grice" -- "Putnam, of all people, turned me into an informalist. His argument was simple: he just complained that I was too formal."


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