Person: Black, Max
Max Black was an Azerbaijan-born philosopher who made contributions to the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mathematics and science, and the philosophy of art.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- By the time he had completed his schooling Black had decided on a career in mathematics rather than music.
- Russell, Wittgenstein, G E Moore, and Ramsey were all teaching at Cambridge during Black's time as an undergraduate and the influence that these people had on Black was very major indeed for they turned his interests towards philosophy.
- At Göttingen Black worked on his first book The nature of mathematics.
- The "vague sets" which Black wrote about in this paper are now called "fuzzy sets" and, had his paper made more impact at the time, then our terminology today might be different.
- Black lectured on mathematics at the Institution of Education in London from 1936 until 1940 when he accepted an appointment to the Philosophy Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana.
- After six years at Urbana, Black accepted a professorship in philosophy at Cornell University in New York.
- The year 1948 saw Black take US nationality.
- Black was famed for his contributions to the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mathematics and science, the philosophy of art, conceptual analysis, and his studies of the work of philosophers such as Frege (publishing a major work in 1952) and Wittgenstein (publishing A companion to Wittgenstein's Tractatus in 1964).
- Black was a prolific author and lists of his publications contain over 200 items.
- One of Black's early books on philosophy was Language and Philosophy which he published in 1949.
- In 1954 Black published Problems of Analysis which examined the problems associated with induction, namely making generalisations and predictions based on a few cases.
- As in many of his arguments Black insists that in the end one can trust inductive arguments if they are seen to work and he argues that common sense must always be used.
- Highly sceptical of those who offered facile classifications, Black sought to confirm what can be known about the world and yet was ever mindful of the tentative nature that characterised most philosophical investigations.
Born 24 February 1909, Baku, Azerbaijan. Died 27 August 1988, Ithaca, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive