Saul Kripke

I wanted to give the philosphers in our audience a chance to patronize me for my ignorance. I had no idea until the past few days that Saul Kripke is an important and widely influential philosopher. I knew him from his work in modal logic, but I imagined that he was a logician who worked on a technical subject on the margins of philosophy. (At least I’m better informed than a guy I know who assumed that Kripke must be a category theorist, because there’s something called Kripke-Joyal semantics, which is a translation of Kripke’s work into the language of topos theory.)

4 thoughts on “Saul Kripke

  1. One might easily make the same mistake about Hilary Putnam, if one only knows the name from the Davis-Putnam-Robinson-Matiyasevitch resolution of Hilbert’s 10th Problem!

  2. Just for you, sigfpe. Everyone else will have to wonder what the puzzle was…

    Now, that you mention it, I think I made the same mistake about Putnam, but a long time ago. I knew he was a philosopher, but I originally didn’t know he was prominent for anything other than his work on Hilbert’s 10th Problem.

  3. Perhaps because he published while still in high-school, Kripke’s name got attached to the idea of possible-worlds semantics for modal logic. But there are quite a few others who came up with the idea around the same time: Jaako Hintikka (work published in 1962 but completed much earlier), Stig Kanger (published 1957), Carew Meredith and Arthur Prior (unpublished 1956), and Charles Hamblin (PhD completed in 1956). At the same time, Hugh Everett completed a PhD in physics at Princeton (1956) in which he introduced the idea of possible worlds to physics. One wonders if there was something “in the air” at the time. I have speculated in the past that the Cold War made people consider alternative possible political systems, and this led them to think of the idea of possible worlds.

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