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Hilary Putnam

PUTNAM, HILARY (1926– ), U.S. scholar. Born in Chicago, Putnam is the son of Samuel Putnam, a writer and translator. Hilary Putnam received his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1948 and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1951. He was a Rockefeller Foundation research fellow in 1951 and 1952.

From 1952 to 1953 Putnam taught at Northwestern University as an instructor in philosophy, then joined the faculty of Princeton University as an assistant professor, becoming an associate professor in 1960. From 1961 to 1965 he was a professor of philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 1965 Putnam became a professor of philosophy at Harvard. He was named the Walter Beverly Pearson Professor of Modern Mathematics and Mathematical Logic in 1976. In 1995 he was appointed the Cogan University Professor in the department of philosophy; he became professor emeritus in 2000.

Putnam wrote extensively on the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of natural science, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of mind. His many notable works include Philosophy of Logic (1971); Meaning and the Moral Sciences (1978); The Many Faces of Realism (1987); and Realism with a Human Face (1990). In the philosophy of mathematics, Putnam advanced the view that mathematics does not use only strictly logical proofs but "quasi-empirical" methods, and he contributed to the resolution of Hilbert's tenth problem. In the philosophy of language, Putnam addressed external, as opposed to inherent, meaning. His work on the philosophy of mind has evolved through an early embrace of functionalism, which he later recanted.

Putnam was actively involved in the antiwar movement of the Vietnam era and for a time was a member of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), a left-wing political organization. He received numerous awards and honors. He was a fellow of the National Science Foundation (1957 and 1968–69), a Guggenheim Foundation fellow (1960), and a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1975–76). He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a president of the American Philosophical Association.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.