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Notre Dame philosophy professor dies at 71

| Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Michael “Mic” Detlefsen, the McMahon-Hank professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, died Monday at 71, the University announced in a press release Wednesday.

Detlefsen taught at Notre Dame for 35 years. His scholarship focused on the intersection between philosophy and mathematics, with a particular focus on the history of mathematics, logic and epistemology. He was editor for the Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, a scientific journal on mathematical logic.

Detlefsen’s work brought him international attention. In addition to several visiting appointments at universities in Europe, he served as Senior Chaire d’Excellence in the French government’s Agence National de la Recherche from 2007 to 2012.

According to the release, he also received honors at Notre Dame, including the University Research Achievement Award in 2016 and the Rev. James A. Burns, C.S.C., Award for Exemplary Contributions to Graduate Education in 2015.

Philosophy professor Patricia Blanchette remembered Detlefsen as an influential international scholar of philosophy.

“Mic’s work to bring together the philosophy of mathematics communities in Europe and North America has been enormously important to the development of the field,” Blanchette said in the release. “His annual philosophy of math seminar in Paris has provided an opportunity for scholars in western Europe to get together with scholars from the U.S., and for the philosophy of mathematics community in Paris to be enriched immeasurably.”

Professor of philosophy and philosophy department chair Jeff Speaks noted Detlefsen’s role in building Notre Dame’s philosophy program.

“Notre Dame has been one of the best places in the world to study the philosophy of mathematics for decades, and that is very largely due to Mic’s importance and influence in the field,” Speaks said in the release. “He has been a leader in our department, and a mentor to students and faculty alike. It is difficult to imagine the place without him.”

A Nebraska native, Detlefsen graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Illinois and a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. He is survived by his wife and three children.

A visitation will be held Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. at McGann Hay Granger Chapel.

A memorial service will take place Sunday at 3 p.m. at Church of the Savior in South Bend. Friends of the Detlefsens are invited to visit with the family an hour before the service.

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