Benson Mates

The Department announces with great sadness the death, on May 14, 2009, of Prof. Emeritus Benson Mates. Born in 1919, Prof. Mates studied at the University of Oregon, completing the B.A. degree there in 1940 (in Philosophy and Mathematics). He began work at the graduate level in Philosophy at Cornell, but his studies were interrupted by a stint during the war in the US Navy. He entered the graduate program in philosophy at UC Berkeley in 1945, completing his Ph.D. degree in 1948 after working with (among others) Harold Cherniss and Alfred Tarski. His dissertation was a study of “The Logic of the Old Stoa”. Prof. Mates took up a position in the Philosophy Department at Berkeley in 1948, working as Assistant and then Associate Professor here from 1948-1958; he was promoted to full Professor in 1958, and held that title until his retirement in 1989.

Prof. Mates’s interests ranged widely over problems in logic, epistemology, and the history of philosophy. His influential books include Stoic Logic (1953); Elementary Logic (1965); The Philosophy of Leibniz (1986); and The Skeptic Way (1996). His own philosophical tendencies were sympathetic to strands in ancient skepticism, a theme that emerges clearly in his book Skeptical Essays (1981).

Prof. Mates is survived by five children John Mates (of Portland, Oregon), Maureen Mates (of Berkeley, California), Margaret Mates (of Seattle, Washington), Susan Mates (of Providence, Rhode Island) and Ellen Mates (of Berkeley, California); and by seven grandchildren.

A brief appreciation of Prof. Mates’s contributions to the study of Stoic logic, prepared by Tony Long, is available here.

May 15, 2009