Obituary of Jaakko Hintikka 1929 – 2015

Obituary by Sami Pihlström

Jaakko Hintikka (January 12, 1929 – August 12, 2015)

Jaakko Hintikka, one of the most distinguished philosophers in the world, died in Porvoo on August 12, 2015, at the age of 86.

Hintikka studied philosophy at the University of Helsinki in the late 1940s and early 1950s, completing his doctoral degree in 1953 with the thesis, Distributive Normal Forms in the Calculus of Predicates. He was a Junior Fellow at Harvard University in 1956-1959. In 1959, he was appointed to the Chair of Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki. In addition to the University of Helsinki, he worked as a professor at Stanford University, the Academy of Finland, Florida State University, and finally (since 1990) at Boston University, retiring in 2014.

Even though he was primarily settled in the United States for several decades, he never lost contact with his home country and home university; he continuously led research projects in Finland and trained an entire generation of philosophers, to the extent that a couple of decades ago almost all Finnish philosophy professors were his former students. Hintikka was by any imaginable criteria one of the most influential Finnish academics of all times.

Hintikka authored or co-authored more than thirty books and hundreds of scholarly articles. His main works include Knowledge and Belief (1962), Models for Modalities (1969), Logic, Language-Games and Information (1973), Time and Necessity (1973), The Intentions of Intentionality (1976), Investigating Wittgenstein (with Merrill B. Hintikka, 1986), The Principles of Mathematics Revisited (1996), Socratic Epistemology (2007), and a six-volume series of Selected Papers (1996-2004).

In 2006, Hintikka received the most prestigious recognition a philosopher can get, a volume of his own in the famous series, Library of Living Philosophers, thus joining thinkers like Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, John Dewey, Rudolf Carnap, Jean-Paul Sartre, Karl Popper, Willard Van Orman Quine, and his own teacher Georg Henrik von Wright. In 2005, he was awarded the Rolf Schock Prize in logic and philosophy “for his pioneering contributions to the logical analysis of modal concepts, in particular the concepts of knowledge and belief”, and in 2011, he received the Barwise Prize from the American Philosophical Association. Hintikka also received a number of honorary doctorates from several universities and was an honorary member of several academic societies. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion of Finland in 2011.

Hintikka was one of the most important and original philosophers of the latter half of the twentieth century (and the beginning of the twenty-first); with his contributions to logic, philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, and related areas, he to a significant degree shaped the field itself, and quite literally created novel approaches and entire research orientations.

Jaakko Hintikka’s last academic affiliation was his Honorary Fellowship at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. Upon returning to Finland in 2010, he arrived at the Helsinki Collegium first as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow; he was later appointed as a permanent Honorary Fellow in 2011. He also donated his massive scholarly library to the Helsinki University Library. Missing its Honorary Fellow, the Helsinki Collegium remains deeply grateful for having had the privilege of hosting the academic research conducted by Jaakko Hintikka during his final active years 2010-2015.

Sami Pihlström
(former Director of the Helsinki Collegium, 2009-2015; Professor of
Philosophy of Religion, University of Helsinki)

Obituary by Ilkka Niiniluoto

Dear Colleagues,

It is my sad duty to tell the news that the Finnish logician and philosopher Jaakko Hintikka died at the age of 86 after a brief illness on August 12, 2015. In the previous week, he participated actively as a speaker in the CLMPS and LC at the University of Helsinki, including the congress banquet on last Friday.

Jaakko Hintikka was born on 12 January 1929 in the Helsinki county (Vantaa) in Finland. He studied mathematics (with Rolf Nevanlinna) and philosophy (with Georg Henrik von Wright) at the University of Helsinki since 1947, and defended his doctoral dissertation on distributive normal forms in 1953. After his Ph.D. studies he worked as junior fellow at Harvard University in 1956-59, and became in 1957 (independently of Stig Kanger) the founder of possible world semantics. In 1962 he published his groundbreaking work Knowledge and Belief on epistemic logic. In 1959 Hintikka was appointed, at the age of 30, professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki. In 1964 he became also professor of philosophy at Stanford University which - with Patrick Suppes and Dagfinn Föllesdal - was one of the leading centers of philosophy of science and philosophical logic. Hintikka’s new interests included inductive logic and semantic information. He shared his time between Stanford and Helsinki until the end of the 1970s. In 1965 Hintikka started his work with D. Reidel’s Publishing Company (later Kluwer Academic Publishers) in Holland as the editor-in-chief of the journal Synthese and the book series Synthese Library. This activity, which has continued until 2002, made Hintikka the most influential editor of philosophical works in the English speaking world.

In 1970 Hintikka was appointed to a Research Professorship in the Academy of Finland which allowed him to establish a research group of younger Finnish scholars working mainly in logic, philosophy of science, philosophy of language, and history of philosophy. As a teacher and supervisor, Hintikka has been highly influential though the richness of his new ideas and research initiatives. Many of the former students of Hintikka have been appointed to chairs in philosophy (Risto Hilpinen, Raimo Tuomela, Juhani Pietarinen, Ilkka Niiniluoto, Simo Knuuttila, Veikko Rantala, Juha Manninen, Lauri Carlson, Esa Saarinen, Matti Sintonen, Gabriel Sandu).

In 1978 Jaakko Hintikka divorced his first wife Soili and married an American philosopher Merrill Bristow Provence (1939-87). In 1978 Jaakko and Merrill were appointed at the Florida State University in Tallahassee. After Merrill Hintikka’s death in 1987 Hintikka married a Finnish philosopher Ghita Holmström. In 1990 Hintikka became professor of philosophy at Boston University and moved to Marlborough, MA. He retired from Boston in 2014 and moved back to Finland.

Besides his activities in research, teaching, and publication, Hintikka served in many important positions in international organizations, among others vice president of Association for Symbolic Logic in 1968-71, vice president of the Division of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science (DLMPS/IUHPS) in 1971-75 and president in 1975, president of the Charles S. Peirce Society in 1997, and the chairman of the organizing committee of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy in 1998. As a proof of the appreciation of Hintikka’s work, a volume dedicated to him in the Library of Living Philosophers was published in 2006.

Hintikka’s publications cover an exceptionally wide range of topics. During his career in more than 60 years he has published about 40 books or monographs, edited 20 books, and authored more than 300 scholarly articles in international journals or collections. His main works deal with mathematical logic (proof theory, infinitary logics, IF-logic), intensional logic and propositional attitudes, philosophy of logic and mathematics, philosophy of language (game-theoretical semantics, quantifiers, anaphora), philosophy of science (interrogative model of inquiry), epistemology, and history of philosophy (Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Peirce, Frege, Wittgenstein).

CLMPS 2015, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee
University of Helsinki

Obituary by Friedrich Stadler (Professor for the History of Science and the Phlosophy of Science, chairman of the Institute Vienna Circle, University oif Vienna and president of the ALWS)

The Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society is mourning over the passing away of Professor Jaakko Hintikka in Porvoo (Finland). He was a long term member, speaker, advisor, and temporal Vice-Präsident of the ALWS. His impressive lifework and his extraordinary contributions to the Wittgenstein research will remain as an intellectual testimony of. His death is an unreplaceable loss for the scientific, especially the Wittgenstein community. Our condolences go to his wife and his family.

On behalf oft he Executive Committee
Friedrich Stadler

Book of Condolences

Jaakko Hintikka shared knowledge and helped me learn more than any other professor. Conversations with him were both pleasant and fascinating. His joy in philosophical thought flowed out of him and was contagious. I benefited greatly from knowing Professor Hintikka and always miss him.

Robert Rose-Coutre on 2016/07/28

We met only once in Helsinki. He entered the room using a cane; gave us a paper and sat down.
This was the end of the morning session and most audience members left for refreshments.
Not being a philosopher I did think it odd the host would have left, so I approached prof.  Hintikka to ask about his health, etc. He told me he had difficulty with his legs, and I commiserated, then he quipped “ better to die from the feet up”

Donald Stanley on 2016/03/06

Having missed the notices of his death last year, I now join those of you who miss this unique man.  He will be missed all over the world.

Rae Roeder on 2016/02/01

Jaakko lives in our memories.

Risto and Anneli Hilpinen on 2015/08/19

Toutes mes condoléances à la famille et aux proches de Jaakko Hintikka, qui a su allier à la fécondité de l’excellence l’humanité et la gentillesse. Son œuvre restera un phare.

Nadine Lavand on 2015/08/16