Kenneth Sayre (1928-2022)

Kenneth Sayre, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, has died.

Kenneth Sayre worked on a wide range of areas in philosophy, including cybernetics, artificial intelligence, information theory, philosophy of mind, environmental philosophy, epistemology, and Plato. He was one of the first philosophers actively involved in the field of artificial intelligence, and was the founding director, in 1965, of Notre Dame’s Philosophic Institute for Artificial Intelligence. He authored 14 books on various topics, from Cybernetics and the Philosophy of Mind to Metaphysics and Method in Plato’s Statesman to Unearthed: The Economic Roots of Our Environmental Crisis. You can view some of his writings here.

Professor Sayre, who was a member of the Notre Dame philosophy faculty from 1958 until his retirement in 2014, also authored Adventures in Philosophy at Notre Dame, a book that, according to the publisher, chronicles “the challenges, difficulties, and tensions that accompanied its transition from an obscure outpost of scholasticism in the 1940s into one of the more distinguished philosophy departments in the world today.” Prior to moving to Notre Dame, Sayre served as assistant dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Science. He earned his MA and PhD from Harvard University and his undergraduate degree from Grinnell College. Over the years, he held visiting appointments at Princeton University, Bowling Green State University, Oxford University, and Cambridge University.

The Notre Dame Department of Philosophy has posted a memorial notice about Professor Sayre here.

(via Sam Newlands)

Beyond the Ivory Tower. Workshop for academics on writing short pieces for wide audiences on big questions. Taking place October 18th to 19th. Application deadline July 30th. Funding provided.
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Mary Magada-Ward
1 year ago

Many years ago, when Dr. Sayre was a visiting professor at BGSU, he convinced me to change my undergraduate major from psychology to philosophy by telling me to “do the philosophy of psychology.” As he continued, “that way you can read all the interesting stuff and not have to do the boring stuff.” I now use this to try to get my own students to switch majors.

He was a wonderful person and a wonderful professor.