Hilary Putnam, one of the most distinguished living philosophers, delivered this year's Julius Rosenthal Foundation Lecture Series, "The Collapse of the Fact-Value Dichotomy," November 6-8, 2000 at Northwestern University School of Law.
Putnam, the Cogan University Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Harvard University, is known as a "big-picture" thinker whose range is enormous, touching upon many aspects of philosophy, from formal logic to the philosophy of religion, from quantum theory to ethics. His positions have become landmarks in debates of the philosophy of mind and language.
"The lecture series has assumed a preeminent position among distinguished legal lecture programs," said Dean David Van Zandt. "Publication of the lectures has contributed to legal literature and scholarship for more than 60 years. Professor Putnam continues this tradition with his bold and energetic approach to philosophical questions."
Putnam's three lectures are titled "The Fact- Value Dichotomy: The Empiricist Background" (Nov. 6), "The Entanglement of Fact and Value" (Nov. 7) and "Fact and Value in the World of Amartya Sen"(Nov. 8) and are available in the library reserve until Nov. 30.
Putnam presented his position on the nature of truth and justification, which he calls "pragmatic realism," a theory that has become a widely discussed alternative to traditional metaphysical kinds of realism and post-modernist skepticism. He argued that notwithstanding its fixated role in modern thought, the fact-value dichotomy is "intellectually indefensible and morally disastrous" and offered new ways to think about moral, economic, legal, and political questions without the restrictions of the dichotomy.
Putnam surveys a wide range of areas, including metaphysics and epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, ethics, and American Pragmatism. His many papers are collected in three volumes of "Philosophical Papers" (1979-1985). He also is the author of 14 books, including most recently "Renewing Philosophy" (1992), "Words and Life" (1994), "Pragmatism: An Open Question" (1995) and "The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body and World" (2000).
Before joining the faculty at Harvard, where he has taught for 35 years, Putnam taught at Northwestern and Princeton and was professor of philosophy of science at MIT. He is a past president of the American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division), a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.