Putnam, Hilary (1926–2016)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q117-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved October 04, 2022, from

1. Life

Born in Chicago in 1926, Putnam spent his early years in France. His father, Samuel Putnam, was a well-known writer and translator, an active communist, and a columnist for the Daily Worker. Along with Noam Chomsky, Putnam majored in the emerging field of linguistic analysis at the University of Pennsylvania (and also in philosophy and German). His graduate studies were divided between Harvard, where he studied with Quine, Hao Wang, C.I. Lewis and Morton White, and UCLA, where he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on the concept of probability under the supervision of Reichenbach. In 1953 he moved to Princeton, made the acquaintance of Carnap and, receiving informal instruction from Kreisel, worked intensively on mathematical logic. He has been at Harvard since 1965. Putnam actively protested against the Vietnam War, and was also active in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and The Progressive Labour Party, a Maoist group. Around 1972 he became disillusioned with communism. Since Putnam saw his early realism as embodying some of Engels’ insights, it seems plausible that this turn affected his philosophical development. Later, he became interested in the study and practice of his Jewish heritage.

Citing this article:
Ben-Menahem, Yemima. Life. Putnam, Hilary (1926–2016), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q117-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2022 Routledge.

Related Articles