Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 501–515 | Cite as

“Metaphysics Without Ethics is Blind”: The Legacy of Hilary Putnam



Two convictions underlie the following article. The first is that Hilary Putnam has been one of the greatest thinkers of our time, a philosopher who was able to propose groundbreaking ideas in virtually every area of philosophy. As the reader will see, the topics he tackled in his writings included questions of philosophy of science, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics and logic, philosophy of mind, metaethics, the fact-value dichotomy, the interpretation of Wittgenstein’s later thought, the question of relativism, the analysis of rationality, the analysis of religious experience, the character of Jewish philosophy, the interpretation of pragmatism, the elucidation of the concept of truth, the question of realism, the relationship between mind and the world. The second is that the changes some of his positions underwent, far from being a point of weakness—as some critics have sometimes felt compelled to claim—reveal the freshness and genuineness of Putnam’s way of philosophising and at the same time the essence of philosophical discussion itself.


Hilary Putnam Analytic Necessary A priori Equivalent descriptions Moral philosophy 


Major Works

  1. 1975a Philosophical Papers, Vol. 1: Mathematics, Matter and Method. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. 1975b Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2: Mind, Language and Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. 1978 Meaning and the Moral Sciences. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  4. 1988 Representation and Reality. Cambridge (ma): The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. 1990 Realism with a Human Face, ed. by J. Conant. Cambridge (ma): Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. 1994a Words and Life, ed. by J. Conant. Cambridge (ma): Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. 1995 Pragmatism. An Open Question. Cambridge (ma): Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  8. 2008 Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life. Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, Wittgenstein. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  9. 2012 Philosophy in an Age of Science. Physics, Mathematics, and Skepticism, ed. by M. De Caro and D. Macarthur. Cambridge (ma): Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

Other Relevant Works

  1. 1962 It Ain’t Necessarily So. In Putnam 1975a, 237–49.Google Scholar
  2. 1967 The Nature of Mental States. In Putnam 1975b, 429–40.Google Scholar
  3. 1975c What Is Mathematical Truth?. In Putnam 1975a, 60–78.Google Scholar
  4. 1975d Philosophy and Our Mental Life. In Putnam 1975b, 291–303.Google Scholar
  5. 1975e The Meaning of ‘Meaning’. In Putnam 1975b, 215–71.Google Scholar
  6. 1976 Literature, Science and Reflection. New Literary History 7.3, 483–91. Repr. in Putnam 1978, 83–94.Google Scholar
  7. 1983 On Truth. In Putnam 1994a, 315–29.Google Scholar
  8. 1986 Why Is a Philosopher?. In Putnam 1990, 105–19.Google Scholar
  9. 1987 Truth and Convention. In Putnam 1990, 96–104.Google Scholar
  10. 1994b Rethinking Mathematical Necessity. In Putnam 1994a, 245–63.Google Scholar
  11. 1994c The Question of Realism. In Putnam 1994a, 295–312.Google Scholar
  12. 2001 Reply to Jennifer Case. Revue internationale de philosophie, 218, 431–38.Google Scholar
  13. 2003 For Ethics and Economics Without the Dichotomies. In Putnam and Walsh 2012, 111–29.Google Scholar
  14. 2013 From Quantum Mechanics to Ethics and Back Again. In Baghramian 2013, 19–36.Google Scholar
  15. 2015 Intellectual Autobiography. In Auxier, Anderson and Hahn 2015, 3–110.Google Scholar
  16. 2016 Reading Rosenzweig’s Little Book. Argumenta 1.2, 161–68.Google Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Auxier, R. E., Anderson, D. R. & Hahn, L. E (Eds.). (2015). The philosophy of Hilary Putnam. Chicago: Open Court (Library of Living Philosophers vol. XXXIV).Google Scholar
  2. Baghramian, M. (Ed.). (2013). Reading Putnam. Milton Park: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Chakraborty, S. (2017). Hilary Putnam: An era of philosophy has ended. Philosophia45, 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Kripke, S. (1972). Naming and necessity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell (1980).Google Scholar
  5. Putnam, H., & Walsh, V. (Eds.). (2012). The end of value-free economics. Milton Park: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Quine, W. V. (1951). Two dogmas of empiricism. In Quine 1953, 20–46.Google Scholar
  7. Quine, W. V. (1953). From a logical point of view. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human and Social SciencesUniversity of SassariSassariItaly

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