David H. Sanford (1937-2022)

David H. Sanford, professor emeritus of philosophy at Duke University, has died.

Professor Sanford was known for his work in metaphysics and logic. He was the author of If P, Then Q: Conditionals and the Foundations of Reasoning, and many other works, which you can view here.

Professor Sanford joined the faculty at Duke in 1970. Prior to that, he taught at Dartmouth College. He earned his PhD from Cornell University and his bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University.

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1 year ago

He was a dear man with a wonderful sense of humor. My love to his family

Avram Hiller
Avram Hiller
1 year ago

David was my advisor. He got his PhD at Cornell under Max Black and Norman Malcolm and had a long and productive career. David did important work on causation, mereology, the degree theoretic view of vagueness, as well as other areas of M&E and logic. His book If P then Q helped draw increased attention to conditionals, which continues to this day. David once told me though that he felt that much of his best work would be forever unpublished in the form of comments on others’ papers at APAs. David was one of the funniest philosophers around – those who regularly attended colloquia at the Duke department knew that whenever he was called upon in a Q&A session, an analogy or potential counterexample would be given that was sure to both lighten the mood and make a serious point. He was a conscientious advisor, mostly hands-off but attentive when needed, and guarded in his praise. Once, after I gave a class presentation, David took me aside and (helpfully) noted a couple flaws in it; later that week, at a departmental party, his dear wife Anne approached me and told me, much to my surprise, that David had said that I had given a wonderful presentation. Thinking back on all the evidence, the truth was probably that it was indeed a flawed, graduate-student-level effort but that together, the sometimes reticent David and the effusive Anne made a lovely and complementary duo. David was a good person and a pleasure to be around, and I am very grateful to him for helping me along my way.

Michael Smith
1 year ago

I am so sad to hear this. David gave me the funniest introduction I have ever had the pleasure of being given when I gave a talk at Chapel Hill ten or so years ago. I asked him for a copy and posted it on my website, and I will post it again here for all to enjoy at my expense. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. https://www.princeton.edu/~msmith/SmithIntroductionbyDavidSanfordClaireMillerLectureUNCChapelHillColoquium2011.pdf