Ronald Giere (1938-2020)

Ronald Giere, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Minnesota, has died.

Giere taught in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine at Indiana University, Bloomington, before moving to the University of Minnesota. He was known for his work in philosophy of science, authoring many articles and books, including Explaining Science: A Cognitive Approach, Science Without Lawsand Scientific Perspectivism. You can learn more about his research here.

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Roberta Millstein
3 years ago

Although Ron Giere was not my direct advisor, he was a valued mentor for me when I was a grad student at the University of Minnesota. His classes were rich and interesting, and they helped me to understand the philosophy of science as a discipline and how one might approach questions in the philosophy of science. I TAed for his legendary Scientific Reasoning class and later was able to pass that approach along to students when I became a professor. Also, Ron served on my dissertation committee and gave me much valuable feedback. But more importantly than any of that, Ron was always fully and enthusiastically supportive of me and my work, and that (I learned later) is not nearly common enough in our field. I am trying to come up with a non-trite way of saying that our field has lost one of its greatest philosophers, but since I can’t, I will just leave it at that. Not an exaggeration in Ron’s case.

Emrah Aktunç
3 years ago

I had the privilege of knowing Ron Giere when I was a graduate student at Virginia Tech. I was working with Deborah Mayo and on her invitation Ron came to Blacksburg regularly for seminars, workshops and conferences. I had the joy of conversing, and debating, with him on several occasions and from the first time I met him I was struck by how wise, kind, approachable and friendly he was with everyone. He had this very rarely seen talent of making you feel relaxed and confident while discussing philosophical matters even when he disagreed with you, perhaps especially when he disagreed with you. He really tried to help you make the best case you could for your point and very often he succeeded. This is a huge loss for the philosophy of science community. Rest in Peace, dear Ron! We will miss you…

Deborah G. Mayo
3 years ago

Ron Giere was a very close friend–professionally and personally–for my entire career, and was the main person who encouraged me to pursue my work in Phil Stat for many years. He was one of the few frequentist philosophers of statistics, & practically all of the noteworthy resources I learned from grew out of discussions and explanations in Giere’s work. When he left Phil Stat to focus on other areas in philosophy of science (early 2000s), he bestowed on me a beautiful, huge, collection of neatly organized files of works by philosophers and statisticians on the foundations of statistics, including some letters and notes. We built a special room for file cabinets to house them. I’m extremely saddened by his loss.

Arthur Fine
3 years ago

I will miss Ron. Ron and I started our careers at the same time, beginning as competitors for the then few jobs not closed off by the “old boys” network. We became friends and have carried on a lifelong conversation about our personal lives, our profession of philosophy of science, and of course about philosophy itself. Ron was a marvelously creative thinker, always trying out fresh ideas and offering challenges to the old ones (including many of my own!). Ron’s important influence on philosophical thinking is evident in the ongoing references to his many books and articles. Not so obvious, perhaps, is his role in moving our profession in the direction of openness and diversity, moving us away from a “king of the mountain” approach to philosophical discussion, and helping us value scientific practice as a guide to good philosophy of science. Ron was a gem of a person and thinker. I miss him; we all shall.

John Douard
John Douard
3 years ago

I didn’t know Ron well, but always admired his brilliant work. I was short-listed for a job in the mid-90s when he was on the hiring committee, and he was enthusiastic about my talk on clinical decision-making. I didn’t get the job (Carl Elliott did, and rightly so), but I immediately sensed that Ron was not only brilliant but also very kind. After I left academia I stayed in touch with him only briefly. But his late work beginning with his cognitive theory of scientific practice, and then his original work on visual representations in science and on perspectival realism was powerful and helped to change my views. Here’s something that always impressed me: Ron was trained in a positivist approach to science, with an emphasis on laws and theories, but he was open, and contributed, to work on models, unusual forms of representation, the importance of cognitive science to scientific decision-making, and so on. He will be missed.