Hilary Putnam

(b. 1926)

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(1926– )

American philosopher. Born in Chicago, Putnam was educated at the university of Pennsylvania and university of California, Los Angeles. He taught at Northwestern, Princeton, and M. I. T. before joining Harvard in 1965. Putnam is widely regarded as one of the most important philosophers of the generation after Quine, although unlike Quine he does not stand for a monolithic system or body of doctrine, and in his later writings has shown himself gloriously unafraid of changing his mind. Putnam's early work centred upon the philosophy of science, but in the latter part of his career his interests in the human sciences have become more prominent. His Reason, Truth, and History (1981) marked a departure from scientific realism in favour of a subtle position that he calls internal realism, initially related to an ideal limit theory of truth, and apparently maintaining affinities with verificationism, but in subsequent work more closely aligned with minimalism. Putnam's concern in the later period has largely been to deny any serious asymmetry between truth and knowledge as it is obtained in natural science, and as it is obtained in morals and even theology. Books include Philosophy of Logic (1971), Many Faces of Realism (1987), Representation and Reality (1988), Renewing Philosophy (1992), Pragmatism (1995), The Threefold Cord (1999), Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy (2002); collections of papers include Mathematics, Matter, and Method (1975), Mind, Language, and Reality (1975), and Realism and Reason (1983).

Subjects: Philosophy.

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