Putnam correspondence

Over on my website, I’ve posted an e-mail exchange I had with the late Hilary Putnam in 2011-12. The text of it has been knocking around on my hard drive, and it’s apt to get lost if I don’t put it somewhere. So posting it is as much for my own record keeping as for anything else.

I approached Putnam with a specific question about his use of the phrase natural kind. He takes the occasion to reflect on connections between Mill’s Logic and his own semantic externalism.

The letters also document how much of a mensch Putnam was. His replies were prompt and generous, and he passed on many opportunities to cut off our exchange.

I made a passing reference to the correspondence in my first paper on Mill and natural kinds. Steve Schwartz read a draft of that paper and sent me this comment:

As a philosophy student in the 1960s, I can say that for us Mill’s System of Logic was considered a relic of only historical interest if even that.  Perhaps there was some minor interest in his theories of induction and causality but none at all in his discussions of names.  Indeed, I was surprised to learn from your essay that Putnam had actually read Mill’s System of Logic. But then in retrospect maybe not so surprised—Putnam is amazing.1

The late Hilary Putnam. A nice guy. via Wikimedia Commons
  1. The presence tense is because Schwartz was writing in December 2012. Putnam passed in 2016.

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