In Memoriam: Lynne Rudder Baker (1944-2017)
Thursday, December 28, 2017
Thursday, December 28, 2017
It is with great sadness that we report the death of Lynne Rudder Baker, Distinguished Professor Emerita in Philosophy. Lynne received her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1972. She began teaching at Mary Baldwin College immediately thereafter, and she held an Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh during the 1974-75 academic year. In 1976 she moved to Middlebury College, and then, in 1989, she arrived here at UMass as Professor of Philosophy, achieving the rank of Distinguished Professor in 2005.
Lynne’s first book, Saving Belief: A Critique of Physicalism, presented a defense of the importance of intentional notions against eliminitivists, such as the Churchlands, whose stark metaphysics would rob the world of intentionality, but, at the same time, argued that the legitimacy of intentional notions does not depend on their finding a place in some successful cognitive science, as many then, and now, would have it. The pragmatic metaphilosophy which underlay this view was brought into sharp focus in Lynne’s second book, Explaining Attitudes: A Practical Approach to the Mind. In Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View, Lynne made explicit her distinctive metaphysical views about the intimate relationship between a person and that person’s body, avoiding both the perils of various forms of reductionism, and the excesses of an extravagant dualism. The Metaphysics of Everyday Life: An Essay in Practical Realism extended Lynne’s pragmatism to questions about the metaphysics of ordinary objects. And Lynne’s latest book, Naturalism and the First-Person Perspective, presents a striking challenge to naturalism, arguing that the very fact that we are capable of thinking of ourselves from a first-person point of view cannot be captured within a naturalistic worldview. This is an extraordinary body of work, presenting an utterly distinctive set of views on topics of the first importance.
Lynne has, along the way, published more than just a few papers as well, on philosophy of mind, metaphysics, the nature of philosophy itself, and philosophy of religion. These papers have been very widely reprinted and translated, setting a standard of clarity and quality of argumentation which few can match.
Professional honors have been heaped on Lynne since the very beginning of her career. She held an NDEA Title IV Fellowship at Johns Hopkins; a Franklin Matchette Teaching Award; an NEH Fellowship for College Teachers; she has been a Fellow of the National Humanities Center and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; she has given the Kraemer Lectures at the University of Arkansas, and the Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow; she received the Chancellor’s Medal from UMass in 2005, and, in 2009, she received an award for Outstanding Achievement in Research and Creative Activity from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. Just a few weeks ago, she was named the Romanell Lecturer on Naturalism by the American Philosophical Association.
We extend our condolences to Lynne’s many students, her colleagues around the world, and to her husband, Tom. Her loss is deeply felt by all of us.
A moving remembrance of Lynne:
Her obituary in the Boston Globe can be found here.