Hilary Putnam dead at 89

Hilary Putnam died of cancer on March 13. Putnam's name is infrequently found in Thomistic literature, but if you do philosophy (my profession), his work is hard to ignore. He was one of the most influential American philosophers of the past half century.

Putnam was famous for changing his mind and reversing his earlier positions. Accordingly, Christopher Norris (who, incidentally, may be the only person to have written books on both Derrida and Putnam) points out that there are three Putnams: the "strong realist" of an early period, the "internal realist" of a middle period, and the pragmatist of a last period. Although it seems to me that the middle period Putnam is better described as an anti-realist, it is true that "internal realism" was his own coinage and I get why he used it.

I said that Putnam's name is not often found in Thomistic literature. I should note some important exceptions of which I'm aware. John Haldane, John O'Callaghan, and Ed Feser have all engaged with Putnam's work. And let's not forget that Putnam himself has engaged with Thomists! His essay "Thoughts Addressed to an Analytical Thomist" was the second piece in the 1997 special issue of The Monist on analytical Thomism (edited by Haldane).

There are several obituaries for Putnam online. Here is one by Martha Nussbaum.