J. Michael Dunn (1941-2021)


J. (Jon) Michael Dunn, emeritus professor of philosophy, informatics, and computer science at Indiana University, and emeritus founding dean of the university’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, has died.

Dr. Dunn was known for his work in logic, particularly relevance logic, the relations between logic and computer science, as well as quantum logic and quantum computation. You can learn more about his research here and here. A book in honor of his work, J. Michael Dunn on Information Based Logics, was published in 2016.

Dr. Dunn retired from Indiana University in 2007 after 38 years there serving as professor, department chair, and in other administrative capacities. Prior to that, he held appointments at Yale University and Wayne State University. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh in 1966 and was an undergraduate at Oberlin College.

In an autobiographical essay that appeared in the aforementioned festschrift, Dr. Dunn notes that “logic is one of those areas that cannot be neatly pigeonholed into the usual academic departments,” which in part explains his involvement in many interdisciplinary collaborations. (He mentions that his position at Yale was funded jointly by the Departments of Philosophy, Electrical Engineering, and Linguistics.) Of his own research, he says:

I had no grand research program. I have followed where the paths have led me. I was very fortunate to have had the teachers, colleagues, and students I have had… Information has been a common theme throughout much of my research, but it was never intended as a programmatic theme. That the concept of information turned out to be so useful in itself proves its importance, at least to me.

Throughout his career, Dr. Dunn says, he was guided by a saying of unknown origin: “Philosophy is the art of the sciences, and the science of the arts.”

He died on April 5th.

(via Greg Restall)

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adriano palma
adriano palma
6 months ago

mike- you are missedReport

Jc Beall
6 months ago

Mike Dunn was both a logician’s logician and a philosopher’s logician. There are few such talents left today. More than any of that, Mike Dunn was a truly kind person who had a smart sense of humor. I was lucky to call him a friend.Report

Kirk Ludwig
6 months ago

The Indiana University Philosophy Department is preparing a memory book for Mike. If you would like to contribute a remembrance, please write Kirk Ludwig ([email protected]).Report

William J Rapaport
6 months ago

I first met Mike when I visited IU in the spring of 1971, after having been accepted there without financial support for the 1971-1972 academic year. I had been accepted at Chicago, whose department invited all accepted students out for a visit. While there, they asked if any of us had any questions, emphasizing that we had already been accepted so we could ask anything we wanted. I, older than most of the other students, boldly asked how they compared themselves to IU, especially with respect to logic. Their answer: IU was better! So I visited IU on that same trip. I met briefly with three faculty members: Hector-Neri Castaneda (who eventually became my dissertation supervisor); I did not understand a word he said :-). And Nino Cocchiarella and Mike Dunn; Mike kindly told me that I would probably get funding once I was there, which prediction turned out true.

I took several logic courses from Mike, and when it came time to choose a dissertation topic, he gave me a bibliography on definite descriptions. Reading that in chronological order gave me the idea for my dissertation: Apply a Meinongian theory (which Hector was working on) to the problem of negative existentials. Mike was originally going to be on my committee, but withdrew when he went on sabbatical.

I stayed in touch with him afterwards, when both of our interests moved to computer science. And I remember him visiting my Buffalo colleague (and former IU CS faculty member) Stuart C. Shapiro and me when Buffalo was considering creating an informatics school.

I have often thought of him, and will treasure his memory.Report

Craig
Craig
6 months ago

“Philosophy is the art of the sciences, and the science of the arts.” The most brilliant statement I am aware of.Report

Chris Faria
6 months ago

My deepest sympathies to the Dunn family. May your memories be fond and sweet.
Peace. Shanti.Report

Jean Yves Beziau
Reply to  Chris Faria
6 months ago

Mike was interviewed for the Paraconsistent Newsletter
http://www.paraconsistency.org/interviews-2016-2020
and his PhD was published in the book series Logic PhDs:
http://www.collegepublications.co.uk/lphd/
JYBReport

Asha Mukherjee
Asha Mukherjee
6 months ago

I met Mike Dunn when I visited IU as Post Doctoral Fulbright Fellow attached with Hector Casteneda. Hector and Mike were very close friends and Mike would always join our discussions on Coffee table. His brilliant comments though sometimes very brief, during the discussions on logic, guise theory and almost everything would always be remembered by me and all those who got opportunity to meet with him. Om shati!Report

Liam Kofi Bright
6 months ago

Mike taught a class at the University of Pittsburgh I attended during an incredibly rough period in my life. He was an empathetic and engaging teacher just when I needed it. I learned a lot, he sparked an interest in the topic that has remained to this day, and I am incredibly grateful for the kindness with which he treated me. He will be missed.Report

Priyedarshi Jetli
Priyedarshi Jetli
6 months ago

As good a man and as good a couple I have ever met! I must say that in my 11 years in Bloomington some of the most pleasant moments were when I met Mike. After coming back to India in 1991, I met Mike 24 years later in Mumbai at a conference. It was the same Mike, even a more sensitive human being. Of course he was my logic teacher. I did not become a logician but thanks to him I have become a good teacher of logic and delve into the history of logic.Report

Brian Skyrms
Brian Skyrms
6 months ago

I knew Mike since graduate school. He was a delightful person — A fine human being. An insightful and overmodest scholar.Report

Margaret Gilbert
5 months ago

I was very sad to hear, yesterday, of Mike Dunn’s passing. I first met Mike in the fall of 1981 when I was a visiting professor in the philosophy department at Indiana University. I fondly remember his and his wife Sally’s kindness and hospitality. Much more recently he and I were both on the visiting committee for the philosophy department at the University of Texas, Austin. i was very pleased to see him again, unchanged, and to spend some more time with him. A person of great accomplishments, he was kind and modest to a fault.Report