Saul Kripke

Saul Aaron Kripke (born November 13, 1940) is an American philosopher and logician. He is a professor emeritus at Princeton and teaches as a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at CUNY Graduate Center. Since the 1960s Kripke has been a central figure in a number of fields related to mathematical logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, metaphysics, epistemology, and set theory. Much of his work remains unpublished or exists only as tape-recordings and privately circulated manuscripts (see "Unpublished Manuscripts and Online Lectures" below). Kripke was the recipient of the 2001 Schock Prize  in Logic and Philosophy. A recent poll conducted among philosophers ranked Kripke among the top ten most important philosophers of the past 200 years.

Kripke has made important and original contributions to logic, especially modal logic, since he was a teenager. Unusually for a professional philosopher, his only degree is an undergraduate degree from Harvard. His work has profoundly influenced analytic philosophy and his principal contribution is a metaphysical description of modality, involving possible worlds as described in a system now called Kripke semantics. Another of his most important contributions is his insistence that there are necessary a posteriori truths, such as "Water is H2O." He has also contributed an original reading of Wittgenstein, referred to as "Kripkenstein." His most famous work is Naming and Necessity (1980).

Saul Kripke is the oldest of three children born to Dorothy K. Kripke and Rabbi Myer Kripke. His father was the leader of Beth El Synagogue, the only Conservative congregation in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother wrote Jewish educational children's books. Saul and his two sisters, Madeline and Netta, attended Dundee Grade School in Omaha and Omaha Central High School. Saul was an extraordinary child prodigy. He had taught himself Ancient Hebrew by the age of six. By the age of nine, he had read the complete works of Shakespeare, studied Descartes and (working entirely on his own) had mastered complex problems in geometry, algebra and calculus. He wrote his first completeness theorem in modal logic at the age of 17 (and it was published when he was 18). After graduating from high school in 1958, Kripke attended Harvard University and graduated summa cum laude obtaining a bachelor's degree in mathematics. He has no other non-honorary degrees. During his sophomore year at Harvard, Kripke taught a graduate-level logic course at nearby MIT. Upon graduation (1962) he received a Fulbright Fellowship. In 1963 he was appointed to the Society of Fellows. For some years he taught at Harvard, moved to Rockefeller University in New York City in 1967, then to Princeton University full-time in 1977. In 1988 he received Princeton's Behrman Award for distinguished achievement in the humanities. In 2002 Kripke started teaching at the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan, and was appointed a distinguished professor of philosophy there in 2003. He was married to philosopher Margaret Gilbert.

He has received honorary degrees from the University of Nebraska, Omaha (1977), Johns Hopkins University (1997), University of Haifa, Israel (1998), and the University of Pennsylvania (2005). He is a member of the American Philosophical Society. Kripke is also an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. He won the Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy in 2001.


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