Mario Bunge passed away in the loving company of his wife, Marta, and children, Eric and Silvia, on February 24, 2020, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Bunge was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 21, 1919. He studied physics and mathematics as an undergraduate at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata and founded a Workers School (the Universidad Obrera Argentina) during that time. Bunge’s first book, Temas de Educacion Popular (1943), dealt with the principles and practice of workers’ education. He graduated in 1942 and began working on problems of nuclear and atomic physics under the guidance of Guido Beck, an Austrian refugee who had been an assistant of Heisenberg in Leipzig. Bunge received his PhD in physics in 1952 with a dissertation on the kinematics of the relativistic electron, which was published as a book in 1960.
Bunge held chairs in physics and philosophy at the University of Buenos Aires and the Universidad Nacional de La Plata. His first major book in philosophy was 1959’s Causality: The Place of the Causal Principle in Modern Science. In January 1963, Bunge accepted a temporary position in philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin. He then had several short-term appointments at the University of Delaware, the University of Pennsylvania, and Temple University before accepting in 1966 his position as professor of philosophy at McGill University in Montreal, where he remained.
In seventy books and 540 articles composed over an eighty-year span—including several articles for Free Inquiry and the Skeptical Inquirer—Bunge made substantial contributions to physics, philosophy of physics, metaphysics, methodology and philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of social science, philosophy of biology, philosophy of technology, moral philosophy, social and political philosophy, medical philosophy, criminology, legal philosophy, and education. At age ninety-eight, he published on the philosophical, specifically ontological, implications of the discovery of Albert Einstein’s postulated gravitational waves. He was a laureate of the Center for Inquiry’s International Academy of Humanism and a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
For many, Bunge’s realist interpretation of quantum mechanics was his major contribution to modern physics. In 2003, he surveyed the arguments in his article “Twenty-Five Centuries of Quantum Physics: From Pythagoras to Us, and from Subjectivism to Realism” in the journal Science & Education. In a journal double issue, ten physicists and philosophers laid out and appraised his signature account of quantum mechanics, with Bunge replying.
The unifying thread of Bunge’s life and research was the constant and vigorous advancement of the Enlightenment project that brings science and philosophy together for the advancement of human welfare.
The Center for Inquiry, as publisher of Free Inquiry and the Skeptical Inquirer, extends its condolences to Mario Bunge’s family. His contributions to the philosophical and scientific communities will not be forgotten.
Nicole Scott is managing editor of Free Inquiry.