|Born||September 21, 1919|
Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Died||February 24, 2020 (aged 100)|
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Education||National University of La Plata (PhD, 1952)|
|Philosophy of science|
Philosophy of physics
Mario Augusto Bunge (//; Spanish: [ˈbuŋxe]; Florida Oeste, September 21, 1919 – Montreal, February 24, 2020) was an Argentine-Canadian philosopher and physicist. His philosophical writings combined scientific realism, systemism, materialism, emergentism, and other principles.
He was an advocate of "exact philosophy": 211 and a critic of existentialist, hermeneutical, phenomenological philosophy, and postmodernism.: 172 He was popularly known for his opinions against pseudoscience.
Bunge was born on September 21, 1919, in Buenos Aires (Argentina). His mother, Marie Herminie Müser, was a German nurse who left Germany just before the beginning of World War I.: 1–2 His father, Augusto Bunge, also of some German descent, was an Argentinian physician and socialist legislator.: 1–2 Mario, who was the couple's only child, was raised without any religious education, and enjoyed a happy and stimulating childhood in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.: 1–22
Bunge had four children: Carlos F. and Mario A. J. (with ex-wife Julia), and Eric R. and Silvia A., with his wife of over 60 years, the Argentinian mathematician Marta Cavallo.: 5 Mario lived with Marta in Montreal since 1966, with one-year sabbaticals in other countries.: 413
Bunge began his studies at the National University of La Plata, graduating with a PhD in physico-mathematical sciences in 1952. He was professor of theoretical physics and philosophy, 1956–1966, first at La Plata then at University of Buenos Aires. His international debut was at the 1956 Inter-American Philosophical Congress in Santiago, Chile. He was particularly noticed there by Willard Van Orman Quine, who called Bunge the star of the congress. He was, until his retirement at age 90, the Frothingham Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at McGill University in Montreal, where he had been since 1966.
In a review of Bunge's 2016 memoirs, Between Two Worlds: Memoirs of a Philosopher-Scientist, James Alcock saw in Bunge "a man of exceedingly high confidence who has lived his life guided by strong principles about truth, science, and justice" and one who is "[impatient] with muddy thinking".
He became a centenarian in September 2019. A Festschrift was published to mark the occasion, with essays by an international collection of scholars. He died in Montreal, Canada, on February 24, 2020, at the age of 100.
Bunge defined himself as a left-wing liberal and democratic socialist, in the tradition of John Stuart Mill and José Ingenieros.: 345–347  He was a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which advocates for democratic reform in the United Nations, and the creation of a more accountable international political system.
Bunge was a prolific intellectual, having written more than 400 papers and 80 books, notably his monumental Treatise on Basic Philosophy in eight volumes (1974–1989), a comprehensive and rigorous study of those philosophical aspects Bunge takes to be the core of modern philosophy: semantics, ontology, epistemology, philosophy of science and ethics. In his Treatise, Bunge developed a comprehensive scientific outlook which he then applied to the various natural and social sciences.
His work is based on global systemism, emergentism, rationalism, scientific realism, materialism and consequentialism. Bunge repeatedly and explicitly denied being a logical positivist, and wrote on metaphysics.
A variety of scientists and philosophers influenced his thought. Among those thinkers, Bunge explicitly acknowledged the direct influence of his own father, the Argentine physician Augusto Bunge, the Czech physicist Guido Beck, the Argentine mathematician Alberto González Domínguez, the Argentine mathematician, physicist and computer scientist Manuel Sadosky, the Italian sociologist and psychologist Gino Germani, the American sociologist Robert King Merton, and the French-Polish epistemologist Émile Meyerson.
Popularly, he is known for his remarks considering psychoanalysis as an example of pseudoscience. He was critical of the ideas of well known scientists and philosophers such as Karl Popper, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and Daniel Dennett.
Bunge appreciated some aspects of Popper's critical rationalism but found it insufficient as a comprehensive philosophy of science, and instead formulated his own account of scientific realism. John R. Wettersen, who defined "critical rationalism" more broadly than Popper's work, called Bunge's theory of science "a version of critical rationalism".
Bunge addressed issues of theory and method in the social sciences starting with his Treatise on Basic Philosophy and later in his career wrote two books entirely focused on the social sciences: Finding Philosophy in Social Science (1996) and Social Science under Debate: A Philosophical Perspective (1998). In these works he argued for an approach to the study of societies that he called systemism, an alternative to holism and individualism. He was an advocate for what he called mechanismic explanations and defended the view that social mechanisms are processes "in a concrete system, such that it is capable of bringing about or preventing some change in the system as a whole or in some of its subsystems".
Bunge was the recipient of many awards throughout his career.
Bunge was also distinguished with twenty-one honorary doctorates and four honorary professorships by universities from both the Americas and Europe. He is in the "Science Hall of Fame" featured in Science in 2011.
This is the last volume of my Treatise on Basic Philosophy, on which I started to work two decades ago. It is consistent with the previous volumes, in particular with the naturalistic, dynamicist, emergentist and systemist ontology, as well as with the realistic and ratioempiricist semantics and epistemology formulated therein.
Because of all these differences between law statements and empirical generalizations, the empiricist epistemology, which favors the latter and mistrusts or even rejects the former, does not fit the facts of scientific practice. Nor does critical rationalism, for which all hypotheses are groundless, none being better than any others except that some resist better the attempts at refuting them (Popper, 1959, 1963, 1974).
Critical rationalism (e.g. Popper, 1959) agrees that experience is a test of theories (its only concern) but claims that only negative evidence counts (against), for positive evidence is too easy to come by. True, unsuccessful attempts to refute a theory (or discredit a proposal or an artifact) are more valuable than mere empirical confirmation. However, (a) the most general theories are not refutable, although they are indirectly confirmable by turning them into specific theories upon adjoining them specific hypotheses (Bunge, 1973b); (b) true (or approximately true) predictions are not that cheap, as shown by the predictive barrenness of pseudoscience; (c) positive evidence for the truth of an idea or the efficiency of a proposal, procedure, or artifact, does count: thus the US Food and Drug Administration will rightly demand positive evidence for the efficiency [efficacy] of a drug before permitting its marketing.
I will endeavor to demonstrate that Popper's theory of the three worlds is unacceptable, that Popper's arguments against materialism do not affect Bunge's ontology, and that starting from this ontology the foundations of rationality can be framed in a more consistent and more 'critical' manner.
While his philosophy shares a great deal of common ground with the critical rationalism of Karl Popper (which Bunge [1996b] dubs 'logical negativism'), he is adamant that criticism, refutation, and falsification should not be overrated. Bunge, along with others (e.g., Bhaskar 1975; Keuth 1978; Trigg 1980; Rescher 1987; Lane 1996; Kukla 1998; Brante 2001), is advocating scientific realism as an alternative to both positivist and antipositivist approaches.
On three items, Bunge sharply criticizes Popper: on confirmations, on social institutions and on the mind-body problem. [...] Nevertheless, we need some sense of proportion. Seeing that Popper and Bunge are generally allies, in comparison with most philosophers around, we may then go into detail and try to contrast their views as best we can, starting with the most important disagreement.