J. Karel Lambert, Professor Emeritus, UCI

J. Karel Lambert, Professor Emeritus of Logic and Philosophy of Science was recently listed as "one of the great philosophical logicians in the 20th century" in the Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers. Lambert was born in 1928 outside Chicago, Illinois. He received a B.A. from Willamette University in 1950, and an M.S. in experimental Psychology from the University of Oregon one year later.  In 1956, he wrote his Ph.D. thesis, “A Logical-Mathematical Analysis of Tolman’s Theory of Learning,” with Henry S. Leonard, philosophy professor and M. Ray Denny, psychology professor, as advisers. His first regular academic position was as an assistant professor in the psychology department at the University of Alberta in Canada.

As a student in experimental psychology, Lambert became convinced that a revision in classical predicate logic was required in order to formalize theories of learning. The problem is that while one can presumably learn truths about fictional detectives, it is not at all clear how to understand the term “Sherlock Holmes” in the context of formal logic when it clearly does not refer to an existing entity. While several people had considered this problem, there remained no satisfactory account of how to understand the logic of irreferential singular terms such as “Sherlock Holmes”, “the largest prime number.” or “the planet Vulcan”.

In response to the problem, Lambert developed “free logic” in the early 1960s as a revision of classical predicate logic that allowed one to admit irreferential singular terms. The point of free logic is to have a formalism which neither requires nor implies any particular ontology. In this sense, it allows one the greatest possible interpretational freedom while still supporting singular terms. His formulation of free logic contained a novel theory of definite descriptions, including a basic principle now acknowledged as “Lambert’s Law." 

As a result of the shift in his research interests to logic and the philosophy of science, Joe transferred to the philosophy department at the University of Alberta in the early 1960s, and in 1963 became professor and chairman of the philosophy department at West Virginia University. While Lambert’s research on logic continued, he also regularly taught classes on the philosophy of science. These lectures were eventually published in 1970 in An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. This textbook, co-authored with Gordan Brittan, has been widely used to teach introductions to the philosophy of science, and it has been translated into a number of languages and published in multiple editions, the most recent in 1992.

In 1967, Lambert moved to the University of California, Irvine as Professor of Philosophy. In the mid 1970s he gave a set of six invited lectures on free logic at the famous College de France in Paris. He became Research Professor of Logic and the Philosophy of Science in 1994, and is currently Emeritus Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science.

While at UC Irvine, Lambert created the Irvine-Salzburg Exchange Program. This exchange program is jointly administered by the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science (LPS) and the Department of Philosophy. It provides opportunities for faculty and graduate students in LPS and philosophy to visit the University of Salzburg, and for faculty and graduate students from Salzburg to visit UC Irvine. These visits have been very productive over the years. Indeed, Simon Huttegger, now Assistant Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science, first visited UC Irvine via the Salzburg Exchange Program.

After three Fulbright Hays Fellowships to Austria, Lambert was made honorary professor in the philosophy department at the University of Salzburg in 1984. Along with his brothers, Joe Lambert also instituted the Justine Lambert Prize, which is awarded by the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science every other year to the best paper submitted by a graduate student dealing with "foundational issues in the formal, natural or social sciences, using tools, methods and results from scientific practice to cast light on the conceptual, philosophical, and scientific relevance of those issues". The Lambert Prize competition is open to all graduate students at the University of California, Irvine, regardless of department or school affiliation. The exact amount of the prize has varied slightly from year to year. In 2009 it was $2000.

Selected works:
 Philosophical Problems in Logic: Some Recent Developments (Reidel 1970).

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, with Gordon G. Brittan, Jr, (Prentice-Hall, 1970, second ed. Ridgeview 1979, third ed. Ridgeview1987, fourth ed. Ridgeview 1992).

Derivation and Counterexample: an introduction to philosophical logic, with Bas C. Van Fraassen, (Encino, 1972).
Meinong and the Principle of Independence, (Cambridge University Press, 1983).

Logic, Bivalence and Denotation, with E. Bencivenga and Bas van Fraassen (Ridgeview 1986, second ed. 1991).
Philosophical Applications of Free Logic, edited by K. Lambert, (Oxford, 1991).

“Outline of a theory of Scientific understanding,” with G. Schurz, Synthese 101 (1994): 65–120.

“Definitions in nonstrict positive free logic,” with R. Gumb, Modern Logic 7 (1997): 7 25–55.
Free Logics: Their Character, Genesis and Some Applications Thereof (Akademische Verlag, Sankt Augustin bei Bonn 1997).

“Free Logics” Blackwell Guide to Philosophical Logic, ed. L. Goble, (Blackwell, 2001), pp. 258–27.
New Essays in Free Logic: In Honour of Karel Lambert, ed. E. Morscher and A. Hieke (Kluwer 2002).
Free Logic: Selected Essays, (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

In addition to having received 3 Fulbright Hays Fellowships, J. Karel Lambert was the recipient of three National Endowment for the Humanities awards, a University of California Presidential Fellowship, and the Medal of the College de France.