John Haugeland, scholar and former Philosophy Department chair, 1945–2010

John Haugeland, a scholar known for his work on philosophy of mind, died June 23 following a May 22 heart attack that occurred during a conference held in his honor. He was 65.

At the conference, James Conant, Chairman of Philosophy and the Chester D. Tripp Professor in Humanities, Philosophy and the College, praised Haugeland’s “profound and lasting contributions to many different areas of philosophy.” In particular, Conant noted Haugeland’s work on the existentialist philosopher Heidegger and on the philosophical implications of artificial intelligence.

Haugeland, the David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor Emeritus in Philosophy, joined the Chicago faculty in 1999. From 2004–07, he was chair of the Philosophy Department.

“He was an exemplary chair,” said Robert Pippin, the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought, Philosophy and the College. “John had absolutely no shred of egoism. He was very sweet and very considerate, but he was also someone with firmly–held principles about philosophy and academic life.”

Born March 13, 1945, Haugeland received his BS in Physics from Harvey Mudd College in 1966, and his PhD in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley in 1976. He taught at the University of Pittsburgh from 1974 until coming to UChicago in 1999.

Haugeland’s book, Artificial Intelligence: The Very Idea (1985), has been translated into five languages. It received acclaim not only for its analysis of artificial intelligence, but also for its lucid and engaging style.

That down–to–earth quality was typical of Haugeland’s work, said Clark Remington, a graduate student who worked closely with Haugeland until his death. In his well–known paper, “The Intentionality All–Stars,” Haugeland explored the philosophical debate over intentionality by assigning various philosophers to different positions in baseball. “It’s a delightful, hilarious article describing who in the field would be second base, left field, pitcher, etc., and it’s incredibly insightful. It’s typical that he would use humor to get right to the heart of something,” Remington said.

In 1998, Haugeland published Having Thought: Essays in the Metaphysics of Mind, a collection of essays from throughout his career. “If I had to do a ‘how–to’ book on ‘how to do philosophy,’ this essay would be one I would dissect at length, revealing its virtues,” philosopher Daniel C. Dennett wrote of Haugeland’s essay “Representational Genera.”

In 2003, Haugeland received a Guggenheim Fellowship to begin work on Heidegger Disclosed, a bold and unique reinterpretation of Heidegger’s Being and Time. At the time of Haugeland’s death, the book was two–thirds complete. “If it’s published, it’s sure to be one of the most important works on Heidegger,” said Pippin.

Family and friends remember Haugeland’s quick wit and his caring relationship with his colleagues. “Everyone knew he had a deep love and concern for philosophy and for his students,” Remington said.

In his spare time, Haugeland was an avid movie–watcher who loved the Coen brothers and never tired of The Princess Bride, said his wife Joan Wellman.

A gifted woodworker and handyman, Haugeland liked to boast that he “certainly owned more nuts and bolts than most philosophers (and possibly more than any).”

Family friend Robbie Kendall remembers, “If there was something that needed to be fixed, his first instinct was to fix it.”

In addition to his wife, Haugeland is survived by his sisters, Cyndi Munch and Carol Magnuson; his son, John Christian Haugeland III; and his stepdaughters, Jennifer Swain and Emma Wellman.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the University of Chicago Philosophy Department, Stuart 202, 1115 E. 58th St., Chicago, IL 60637, for the John Haugeland Undergraduate Fund.