Saul Kripke, one of the most influential analytic philosophers of the 20th Century, has died.
Professor Kripke was well-known for his work in philosophy of language and logic, with his Naming and Necessity, the book version of lectures he delivered at Princeton University in 1970, widely recognized as one of the most important works of 20th Century analytic philosophy. An overview of his influential work can be found here and a list of his publications can be viewed here.
At the time of his death, Kripke was Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Computer Science at CUNY Graduate Center. From 1977 to 1998 he was a professor of philosophy at Princeton University. Prior to that, he held positions at Rockefeller University, Harvard University, and Princeton, and even before he earned his BA from Harvard in 1962, he taught courses at Yale and MIT. He held many visiting positions around the world over the course of his career, including at Cornell University, UCLA, Oxford University, the University of Utrecht, and Hebrew University, to name just some of them.
A 1977 New York Times article about Kripke’s life and career up to that point, and his reputation as a genius, conveys his standing at the time, at least among some philosophers:
Kripke’s potential, his controversial views and his position as [a] budding genius in world analytic philosophy have combined to make him a man who inspires awe and excitement among philosophers. In fact, he has already become something of a cult figure in philosophical circles—gossiped about, studied, analyzed and claimed as a kindred mind. Some philosophers lose their reserve when speaking of him. The cult phenomenon is itself remarkable, for philosophers as a group have such large egos that they correct Aristotle as they would a schoolchild, and they have such a healthy sense of skepticism that they doubt whether such things as proper names exist. Even in groups of two or three, they lace their conversation with exit clauses and qualifiers to guard against having a trapdoor sprung under some private reality. They do not, in short, subordinate or let go of themselves easily, and yet Kripke has been known to bring to their brain‐twisting conclaves the atmosphere of an early Beatles concert.
A 1996 Lingua Franca article by Jim Holt looks at some of the controversial aspects and upshots of Kripke’s reputation.
Among his many honors were the 2001 Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy from the Swedish Academy of Sciences.
He died on September 15th.
Obituaries and memorial notices elsewhere:
“Saul Kripke, Philosopher Who Found Truths in Semantics, Dies at 81” by Sam Roberts at The New York Times
“The Mozart of Modality” by Stephen Harrop at City Journal
“Saul Kripke Obituary” at The Guardian