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Jaakko Hintikka in Memoriam

Jaakko Hintikka

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)