Paul Gochet (1932-2011)

Brief academic vita

Paul Gochet graduated in Romance philology (1954) and philosophy (1959) at the University of Brussels (ULB). In between he spent a year in England attending the courses of A. Ayer at University College London (1957) and J.L. Austin at Oxford (1958). He received his PhD from the University of Liege (1968) where he had been an assistant since 1962, and he was a professor there from 1972 to 1996. He traveled widely, attending courses of W. V. O. Quine in Harvard (1971), and spending a year (1974-75) at Stanford with J. Moravcsik, P. Suppes, D. Føllesdal and J. Hintikka. In 1984, he was at ANU in Canberra with R. Routley, R. Meyer and J.J.C. Smart, returning there in 1995, to visit with the Automated Reasoning Project of M. McRobbie, J. Slaney and R. Goré. Another noteworthy aspect is his long-standing connection with the Belgian National Center for Research in Logic that was founded in 1955 by R. Feys, Ch. Perelman, A. Borgers, A. Bayart, Ph. Devaux, and others, which maintained close connections with E.W. Beth and other logicians in The Netherlands.

Paul Gochet's interests concerned essentially, but not exclusively, language, logic and knowledge. He first graduated with a thesis on poetry, then worked on the logical theory of the proposition in the analytical tradition. With a few others, he has been responsible for introducing analytic philosophy to the French speaking community. From philosophy, he widened his investigations to the formal semantics of natural language that required expertise in linguistics as well as in modal and intensional logics. Later on, Paul Gochet shifted naturally with the trend toward applications in computer science and artificial intelligence. In particular, this led to his long-standing interest in epistemic logic. In line with this development, an important feature of his activities, and one that made him a widely-known international presence, was his decades-long involvement with the European community in logic, language, and computation, where he was a constant visitor at the Amsterdam Colloquia in formal semantics, and the European ESSLLI Summer Schools in Logic, Language and Information.

Paul Gochet was Commandeur de l'Ordre de la Couronne and Grand Officier de l'Ordre de Léopold II. He was a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium and of the International Institute of Philosophy, and held a honorary doctorate from the Universite de Nancy. He served as President of the European Association of Logic, Language, and Information (FoLLI) from 2001 to 2004.

Selected major publications

  • "Esquisse d'une Théorie Nominaliste de la Proposition", Paris, 1972. ("Outline of a Nominalist Theory of Propositions", 1980).
  • "Quine en Perspective", Paris, 1978. ("Quine zur Diskussion", 1984).
  • "Ascent to Truth", Munich, 1986.
  • "Logique", 3 volumes, with P. Gribomont (1,2,3) and A. Thayse (3), Paris, (1990, 1994, 2000).

Brief personal statements from colleagues

Johan van Benthem (ILLC Amsterdam)

Paul Gochet was an inspired colleague with broad erudition and vision, and over many decades, a gentle and persistent supporter of the Dutch logic community, and many broader intellectual circles. We are grateful for his insights in philosophy and logic, but the sad feeling that dominates right now is that we have lost a faithful friend and rare human being in our midst.

Patrick Blackburn (Roskilde University)

Paul probably attended more ESSLLI summer schools than any other person. His unquenchable loyalty to the schools, and his unflagging devotion to all things logical made him a memorable figure on these occasions. We will all miss him, and his enthusiasm.

Marcel Crabbé (University of Louvain)

What struck me first when I met Monsieur Gochet in 1970 was his extreme politeness and formalism. He rarely departed from this respectful distance he had for everyone. He never put himself to the fore, as he saw himself -- erroneously, in my view -- as a mere transmitter, generally hiding his own philosophical opinions. In fact, his entire life was dedicated to the promotion of knowledge, and the promotion of logicians. In this connection, he always showed a positive mind, blind to negative sides of persons. His death is felt as a very sad event and a great loss.

Paul Dekker (Chair ESSLLI Standing Committee)

I have known Paul Gochet as an organizer of a European DYANA project, the Amsterdam Colloquia, and the ESSLLI Summer Schools. What struck me first is how he always promptly and kindly replied to all communications. Only later on, I realized this was the same Professor Gochet that I had read as a student. I had first studied Voltaire, Camus, and others in French, and didn't dare to admit that I maybe did not understand all. Then I read Gochet's "Esquisse d'une Théorie Nominaliste de la Proposition": its logic was clear and beautiful. In recent years we had conversations on my own world of dynamic and epistemic logics, where he knew current developments better then me. Paul was always a modest gentleman, always a skilled logician, and always young and inspired.

Jacques Dubucs (IHPS Paris)

Paul Gochet, whom I have known since the late 1980's, was a figure commanding respect. He helped much to introduce logic and analytic philosophy in the French community, and contributed to connecting the young generation to the best European tradition in the field. As an assiduous visitor of the Logic seminar of IHPST he brought us his acquaintance with most recent developments in the field as well as his unflagging commitment to argumentation and discussion. Everybody was struck by his devotion to values of probity and rigour. Paul Gochet was an honnête homme. We miss him immensely.

Dov Gabbay (King's College London)

I first met Paul at Stanford 1971.Since then we kept in touch until last year. Paul was a true scholar, an old fashioned gentleman and an example to us all of what a true dedicated researcher should be. He was a considerate very polite person always much admired by all his friends.

Pascal Gribomont (University of Liège)

Paul Gochet was able to find something interesting in every paper, something positive in every person. He was an unofficial but very effective mentor for many people of the Belgian logic community. His encyclopedic knowledge of logic was only surpassed by his dedication to comprehend and to share every new theory, every work in progress submitted to him. But above all I will remember Paul Gochet as the kindest person I ever met.

Gerhard Heinzmann (University of Nancy)

Paul Gochet advised a whole generation of French philosophers on how to express the ways of rationality. He did it with great modesty, but with clarity and firmness in a discipline where institutional organization seems to obstruct the logical training of the best. As a member of the Scientific Committee of the Poincaré Archives, and co-organizer of several symposia in Nancy, Paul inspired and supported teachers and researchers of our Department of philosophy force about twenty years and contributed to the broader visibility of our university. We will never forget his warmly human mind.

Vincent Hendricks (Copenhagen University)

Paul Gochet will stand as a true gentleman of formal philosophy: superiorily well-versed, genuinely interested, immensely inquisitive, unprecedentedly unpretentious, elegantly enthusiastic, formally fine-tuned - a model in every domain. Paul would always end his letters with "yours as always", indeed I will always aspire to follow the standards you instilled in formal philosophy and elsewhere in life. Thanks for your guidance and vision of reason, rationality and interaction....

Bruno Leclerq (University of Liège)

Not only has Paul Gochet inspired his students with passion for Logic and Analytic Philosophy, he also has always paid careful and benevolent attention to their own work. They will miss his encouraging comments as well as his judicious suggestions.

Michael Moortgat (President of FoLLI)

With Paul Gochet the Association for Logic, Language and Information has lost a striking personality: on the one hand an Old-Worldly gentleman in his manners, on the other hand ever young at heart and genuinely interested in new ideas and in the changes that the field went through during his long career. Paul will be missed!

Jacques Riche (Belgian National Centre for Logic)

The three words of the title 'Language, Truth, Logic' characterize Paul Gochet's whole life and most of his curriculum. Ayer and his book had taken him to analytic philosophy. Quine had provided his 'Methods of Logic', for "Truth is our game". But Gabbay's modal logic, Hintikka's epistemology, and others at Stanford and elsewhere were paving the way. Then, recently, for once looking back, he could say: "I had the chance to see the birth of a science. In the Netherlands." Everybody was kindly welcomed aboard and enthusiastically invited to join in a cooperative endeavor that had, for him, a higher ethical import.

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