Mark Steiner (1942-2020)


Mark Steiner, emeritus professor of philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has died of complications related to COVID-19.

Professor Steiner was known for his work in the philosophy of mathematics, Wittgenstein, and philosophy of science, authoring The Applicability of Mathematics as a Philosophical Problem and Mathematical Knowledgeand many articles. You can browse some of his research here.

Professor Steiner worked at Hebrew University of Jerusalem since 1977. Prior to that, he was a assistant professor of philosophy at Columbia University. He earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1972.

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Amit
Amit
1 year ago

I’m shocked!
I would like to add, as a student of Mark, that he was probably the funniest professor I had, and some of the jokes he told to (accurately) illustrate philosophical problem stay with me to this day.Report

Amit
Amit
Reply to  Amit
1 year ago

*problemsReport

milx
milx
Reply to  Amit
1 year ago

Please if you don’t mind sharing some?Report

Florence
Florence
Reply to  milx
1 year ago

On one occasion Igor Primoratz was giving a talk “Punishment as Language”, an expressive theory of punishment. Mark as moderator quipped that we were usually preoccupied with language as punishment, which I took to be a humourous allusion to the difficulty of studying philosophy of language. Just off the top of my head…Report

Amit
Amit
Reply to  milx
1 year ago

It won’t be as funny as when Mark told it, but OK:
I remember a lesson on the problem of induction (in a philosophy of science course). Mark then told us about a time when an investment salesman knocked on his door and tried to convince him to deposit all his savings in the salesman’s company. The salesman showed mark graphs from the last 3, 5 and 10 years, all of which showed a nice increase.
“Your graphs are really very nice, very impressive indeed”, Mark sayd, “But what makes you think that the future would resemble the past?”
At this point the salesman had a great answer: “Because it had always been like that!”
“Well”, Mark said, “By the same token, all the people of your kind I met so far were scoundrels, so I think I’ll pass”

Another nice anecdote from the same course was when he talked about metaphors in science and their importance. He mentioned a “friend” (to this day I’m not sure if it was a real friend or imaginary) that wrote a paper about metaphors, but didn’t abide to PC rules, so they asked Mark to tell him that the paper is great but he has to change the opening sentence, which was: “Metaphors are like the Chinese. There are too many of them to be ignored!”Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Amit
1 year ago

Sounds like the friend was Searle.Report

Holger
Holger
1 year ago

Very saddening. His work in philosophy of mathematics was always insightful and enlightening. I regret that I have never met him in person.Report

Smith&Jones
Smith&Jones
1 year ago

That’s very sad and I’m sorry to hear it.

I remember being deeply impressed by Dr. Steiner’s work on mathematical explanation when I encountered it in one my very first seminars in graduate school.Report

Marc Groz
Marc Groz
1 year ago

He was my first (Columbia) University instructor, back in the Spring of 1973. The course was Introduction to Mathematical Logic, a graduate-level course (G4132Y) in the Philosophy Department. I was a sixteen year old high school student interested in Godel’s Proof. When I went to see him about taking the class, he noticed that I was carrying a copy of Kleene’s Introduction to Metamathematics and he admitted me on the spot. I registered as a General Studies “Special” student. (GS is usually for students over the age of 21; Sandy Koufax was a GS Special student during his rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers.)

I thoroughly enjoyed the class! We worked through all the mathematical “machinery” needed to prove Godel’s theorem. It was like climbing a mountain, but the view was worth the effort.

Mark was a great teacher.Report

Zoran Mimica
Zoran Mimica
1 year ago

i use to quote iIgor Plamenatz in my master thesis on HObbes, as he is Hobbes scholar lke myself, something on death penalty…I think I met Mark too once in zagerb opn a conference on Free will, but I am not sure…there was a prof from Jerusalem , I took them to pizza during the break to old town zagrebReport

Hanoch Ben-Yami
Hanoch Ben-Yami
1 year ago

Yemima Ben-Menahem has written a farewell to Mark, also describing his philosophical views, for the latest HPS&ST Newsletter. See here:
https://www.hpsst.com/uploads/6/2/9/3/62931075/2020april.pdfReport

S K
S K
7 months ago

I graduated Salanter Yeshiva and Yeshiva University High School(MTA) with Mark. I would like to share with you his bio from the 1960 Yeshiva H.S. yearbook, Elchanite.
“President,National Honor Society; Editor-in-Chief, Elchanite; Captain, Mathematics Team: Assosiate Editor, Hatchiah: Chess Team; Intramurals;
Publications: Committees.
Yeshiva has always prided itself upon the excellence of its students and upon the many distinctions which they have achieved. During the past four years no one has done more to perpetuate this heritage than Mark Steiner. Mark has always excelled as a student both in Jewish and secular studies. His extra-curricular activities include the Math Team, the ELCHANITE, and the Academy News, all in executive positions. As a senior, Mark represented Yeshiva as a Merit Scholar and a General Motors winner. His academic achievements as a high school student are such that the permanence of his distinction is assured. In view of these accomplishments it is paramount that Mark is also one of the best-liked members of his class. We are proud of the honors which Mark Steiner will bring to his alma mater.” 
Mark was also a fine accordionist and frequently performed at our talent shows. May his memory be a blessing.Report