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Ian Mueller’s Guest Book

This site has been created for people to write reminiscences and notes about Ian Mueller.  It is maintained by the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago.  To add something, just click on the heading to this post (“Ian Mueller’s Guest Book”).

24 responses so far

24 Responses to “Ian Mueller’s Guest Book”

  1. Martin Lin says:

    I’m very sad that Ian is no longer with us and very grateful that I knew him. I was a philosophy student at Chicago in the 90’s and took some classes with him, TA’d for him, and worked with him in the MAPH program. He had a well deserved reputation among the grad students as a straight shooter. He was someone you could turn to for advice and you could trust him to tell you like it was. I looked to him as a model of honesty, sincerity, and integrity, both as a philosopher and as a human being. He was also a very warm and caring person. He was a good man and I’ll miss him.

  2. Josiah B. Gould says:

    I was shocked to learn of Ian’s death. I didn’t see him often but I never had a conversation with Ian that was not fruitful for me. He was especially generous in allowing me to work with him on our translation of Alexander’s commentary on Aristotle’s modal logic. Scholars of Greek philsoophy, logic, and mathematics will always be grateful for Ian’s brilliant insights and significant contributions. My condolences to you, Janel. Josiah

  3. Martin White says:

    I was a grad student in the late 60s and early 70s. He was one of the younger faculty members then. The only course I ever took from him was Logic and the Philosophy of Mathematics, but it’s one that I remember best. It’s hard for me to think of Ian as (relatively) old and even harder to think of him as gone.

  4. Michael R. Jones says:

    I first knew Ian when I was a graduate student in the early 1980s. He was as an inspiring, intelligent and humane teacher. Over the years as I have read his work I have always found it rich with learning, scholarly grace, and care for the true. Bill Tait mentions Ian’s course notes on the pre-socratics–I was in a version of that course. I remember it with gratitude and I too still have the notes. We have lost a sustaining voice in our lives.

  5. Bill Tait says:

    Ian and I were colleagues from the time I joined the department in 1972 until I retired in 1996. For a few years before that, I was living in Hyde Park and we had frequent conversations about logic, philosophy of mathematics and philosophy in general. (He didn’t believe that I had a genuine interest in philosophy and attempted to get me to confess to that. I hope that he eventually changed his mind.) I think that we were friends, too, but not close friends: there was always an element of tension after I joined the department. I was ticked o ff with him on occasion and he with me most of the time. We didn’t get off to a good start as colleagues: I was already fairly senior when I joined the department and I was advised by my friends Leonard Linsky and Ruth Marcus that it was customary for people in my position to place some conditions on accepting an off er. More money was an obvious candidate; but it occurred to me also to ask for a grand office. I don’t know what I really had in mind; probably something like the Oval Office, the office of an Oxford don, or of a CEO—even though, up to that point and ever after, I have never really worked in a university office. Anyway, when I arrived in the autumn of 1972, I was directed to an office on the second floor of Cobb with a wonderful view|if one could manage to walk through the debris on the floor and see
    through the grime of the windows. In the process of cleaning it up, I learned (from the debris) that it had been Ian’s office. It wasn’t much, but I assumed that Ian, who was on leave, had been consulted and had
    agreed to surrender his office to such a distinguished person as myself. When Ian returned to Chicago, I quickly learned how seriously wrong I was on both counts. In the face of his wrath, I was out of there subito with my pad of paper and whatever else I might have accumulated there. (A year later I found a closet somewhere in Wieboldt in which I could meet with students and store stuff for which I had no room at home.)

    Having said all this about the tensions between us, I want also to emphasize how much I respected and
    admired Ian always for his tough-minded adherence to his ideals in his life as a citizen, as a scholar, and as a member of our department. I should also mention that, however much he may have disapproved of my somewhat a priori style of doing history, I had only to hand him a draft of a paper on Plato or on Greek
    mathematics to be assured of very substantial and valuable comments.

    Some of the following I have from personal conversations with Ian, but a lot comes from a talk he gave to CFS (= Committee on the Conceptual Foundations of Science) in the 1970’s or early 1980’s|I can’t remember. Through that period, the committee was quite lively, with active participation from people from all of the divisions and semi-weekly colloquium meetings that were almost always worth attending. (That
    committee died and another, CHSS, with quite a di fferent agenda, is in its place.) Ian’s talk was one of a series by faculty members on the general topic \How come I’m doing what I do.” Ian began his career in my fi eld, more or less. For his dissertation, he wrote on the continuum problem and, in particular, on Godel’s monograph The Consistency of the Continuum Hypothesis and the Axiom of
    Choice in which Godel, in dreadful detail, describes his inner model of constructible sets. In 1964, (more or less) as Ian was finishing his dissertation, Paul Cohen made known his method of forcing, which immediately yielded, among other things, a proof of the consistency of denying the continuum hypothesis, settling the
    question of independence. Ian said that he never really understood Cohen’s construction and, in thinking about it, he was fi nally led to doubt whether he understood the foundations of mathematics, its most
    basic concepts, at all. I didn’t and still don’t understand this completely, but maybe it is something like an extended case of mental overload, where meaning simply breaks down for one. Anyway, he was led back to the study of the historical beginnings of the foundations of mathematics in classical Greece|in particular, to Euclid’s Elements. So, being Ian, he learned classical Greek|this while
    teaching at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. (Years later, when I was in the midst of my own pathetic attempt to do the same, he mentioned to me that he learned using Fobes’ Philosophical Greek.)

    It is interesting that Ian went back to Greek mathematics to seek foundation. When Hilbert and Bernays wanted a foundation on which to prove the consistency of axiomatically founded mathematics, they went back to an older conception of mathematics—mathematics as computation and construction—the
    conception that Kant attempted to found in the Critique of Pure Reason, and Euclid’s geometry was their prime example of this ‘fi nitist’ conception. In his book on Euclid, Ian discusses the diff erence between the conception of geometry that appears to lie behind the Elements and Hilbert’s axiomatic foundation in his
    Grundlagen der Geometrie. As I recall, although I am not entirely sure of this, Ian spent some time with Bernays in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. What I am certain of is that he translated a number of works
    of Bernays on the subject of `fi nitism’ in which the urexample of Euclid’s geometry is extensively discussed, notably \Die Philosophie der Mathematik und die Hilbertsche Beweisetheorie” and the first two sections of volume 1 of Hilbert and Bernays’s Grundlagen der Mathematik (written by Bernays). These are what Ian described as `rough translations’, which he executed entirely for the use of his students in courses on philosophy of mathematics; but they (chosen over other, published, translations) have served as the basis of the translations of these works soon to appear (God willing!) in a bilingual edition of Bernays’s philosophical works.

    Incidentally, these translations are typical of the eff ort that Ian put into his courses: I have a fi le full of translations, lecture notes, transcriptions and glosses of texts in Greek philosophy, all composed for courses he was giving, including an eighty-two page set of notes for a course on the presocratics.

    Of course, his scholarly contributions to the history of Greek mathematics and philosophy are central to these fields. Besides his book, three of my favorites are his paper on the completeness of Stoic logic, Aristotle’s conception of geometric objects and a paper on a fragment of the fifth century geometer Bryson. In the second, he argues that, for Aristotle, geometric statements are statements about sensible substances, but restricted to the language of extension. Ian later told me that he came to have doubts about this; but the textual evidence seems to me conclusive and I take it as gospel. (For what its worth, Godel also read Aristotle in that way.) Bryson was one of the fifth century types interested in squaring the circle. The third paper is a short discussion of one reading of a fragment from Bryson, in which he seems to be stating that the circle can be squared on the basis of a geometric version of the intermediate value theorem, and Aristotle’s criticism
    of it. (IVT states: if f is a continuous function and f(a) ≠ f(b), then for every number e between f(a) and
    f(b), there is an d between a and b such that f(d) = e.) Take f(x) = xx (the square on x), take a to be
    the side of the square inscribed in the given circle C, and take b to be the side of the square circumscribed
    about C. Then aa < (area of) C bb and so C = dd for some d between a and b. This would seem to be the fi rst statement we have of the IVT. Aristotle criticizes Bryson’s argument, but there are several possible interpretations of what he meant. Ian argues that his criticism was that Bryson’s method of proof did not meet the demands of the problem, which was, in our terms, to give something like a Euclidean construction of the square = C. Interestingly, Bolzano (in 1817) in giving the fi rst analytic proof of IVT, also quotes the same passage from Aristotle as authority for the view that a geometric proof of IVT is inappropriate, for it is a theorem of function theory and the geometric version is simply an application of it. Ian notes the
    `non-constructive character of Bryson’s proof that C can be squared and refers to the 20th century version of constructivity in mathematics. This is of course is far more inclusive than Euclidean construction; but Ian's reference is nevertheless apt because, even in the wider sense, IVT is not constructively provable—at
    least in any sense of constructivity that is consistent with the constructive numerical functions all being Turing computable.

    I last saw Ian with Janel at the memorial party for John Haugeland at Joan's house. They both seemed pleased with the world (although I know that could never have been fully true of Ian!)|with plans for the
    future and looking forward to the prospect of days of research in Regenstein.


  6. eric florens says:

    Ian is and always will be an incredible person. The greatest person to talk to and spend time with. Very sad.

  7. Brian Johnson says:

    I think I am still in shock that Ian is gone. He was so consistent and so diligent about what he did that he seemed like a clock that could tick forever. To me, that level of diligence is what defined his work. If a text, a paper, or an argument did not make sense, he would say so. When he read a text with you, you always felt like it was only the text that mattered — in all its beauty and aporia. Thus, if you happen to have observed something in the text that Ian thought productive (which happened once in a blue moon), you felt like you had won the lottery when he said so! At the same time, I think that his personal character was marked by the same diligence. When it came to grading, to returning papers, to his duties to the department and so on, Ian was incredible for doing everything asked of him. He did what he said he would do and was always up front about what he would do.

    I’m also heartbroken to see that Janel has lost such a great husband. I came to see the power of their relationship when Anne Eaton had organized a discussion on being an academic couple. The discussion was hosted by Ian and Janel in the old Anscombe lounge. What I remember most is how much Ian beamed in Janel’s presence and how evident it was that he and Janel were still madly in love. It was a wonderful demonstration of what a genuine partnerhood looked like and I thought we should all be so lucky to have what they have.

  8. Christina von Nolcken says:

    Ian Mueller eased my way into the core when I first arrived at the University: anything I know about Philosophy came from him. Then, over some thirty years, I came increasingly to appreciate his unswerving integrity, formidable learning, remarkable modesty, and plain good sense. I will greatly miss his good-natured conversation, which I have had the good fortune to experience at many times and in many places. I remember with delight the multi-media finales that he organized for students and staff in the core. I picture him in Greece, where he and Janel joined Kostas and me on some precipitous roads. I recall his fine cooking, in Chicago, Michigan, even in Paris. And I think of him in London, where he and Janel were about to become my close neighbors. My heart goes out to Janel, at this shockingly abrupt loss of her constant companion, loving husband, and truly remarkable friend.

  9. Elaine Hadley says:

    I did not know Ian well. Janel has been a mentor of sorts and an inspiration during my career at the U of C, and, for the most part, I knew Ian because of her. I want to honor their union, which was so obviously strong and lovely, and to express regret that a couple so well designed for a storied retirement together could not live that narrative. Ian and Janel were strong historical and moral presences in the faculty discussions concerning the Milton Friedman Institute, and I felt empowered by the combination of critique and loyalty that was palpable in their bond to the U of C. Early in my time at the U of C, Ian, then a Co-Director of MAPH, provided timely advice to me as I struggled to figure out how to grade this new population of students. He was guided then by intellectual rigor and kindness. I can see this was an ongoing theme throughout his life. Keep strong, Janel.

  10. Prue KIng says:

    So many happy memories, going back to student days Janel, when you came to Scotland, and then when you brought Ian and the girls. Great friends, so much love and affection. Two great academics who were never too great to laugh with a couple of simple Scots and share the pleasure of friendship and life. We’re here. Still with you and for you any time, Janel. Who could ask for better friends than you two? Prue and John

  11. Eric Brown says:

    Another of Ian’s student during the 1990s, I am filled with sadness that he is gone and with gratitude that I knew him. I very much admired and continue to admire the way Ian combined a rigorous skepticism in his scholarly work and teaching with a firm and unskeptical commitment to what is right in his dealings with the human beings and institutions around him. Most of all, I admired and admire his humane, gentle, good-humored way of firmly insisting on the highest standards in both scholarly work and in all his dealings with other people. I have known few with standards as high as his, and perhaps no one who has so consistently earned good will while holding to those standards.

    I think of Ian in the classroom whenever all the going interpretations seem problematic. (This does not happen as often in my classrooms as it did in Ian’s, but I still hope to catch up.) I think of him when I am marking essays, too, remembering that he always noted any inefficiency, including two uses of the space-bar where one was due. And I think of him when I reflect on what I am doing and how I might do it better.

  12. Prof. G.E. Lloyd and Ji Lloyd says:

    Ian was a brilliant scholar, combining originality, flair, meticulousness and good judgement. But this is not the occasion to attempt to do justice to his achievements in that area. Rather, we want to talk about him as a friend, indeed about Ian and Janel as a pair of very special friends with whom we have had many great times together. Geoffrey first met the Muellers when he came, on Ian’s invitation, to give a lecture at Chicago in 1968, when he remembers staying with them and the marvellous party they gave to introduce him to a wonderful mix of friends, many of them typical Chicago products with that splendid Chicago gift for puncturing the pretensions of New Englanders and Californians alike, not to mention Europeans.
    But subsequently one of the main contexts in which we got to know each other was at international Symposia. These are important, serious, intense gatherings, but it is vital to get them into perspective. For that the partners of the participants, who do not go to the meetings themselves of course, play a key role. Janel and Ji went on many walks together on such occasions and were there to swap stories and reactions and jokes with Ian and Geoffrey at the end of the day. One notable meeting of the prestigious Symposium Aristotelicum took place in Switzerland, at Sigriswil, high above lake Thun, in a hotel that was quite comfortable but rather overdid the rules and regulations. You needed to keep your sense of humour when even the domestic geese kept by the management were never allowed to get their feet muddy.
    We came back to Chicago for a series of lectures in 2000, kitted out for winter weather only to find ourselves in a heat wave: Janel to the rescue to supply Ji with sandals and summer clothes. Again the hospitality was breathtaking, and we particularly remember spending an idyllic weekend at the Mueller’s country house in Douglas, a village on Lake Michigan. The house is an octagonal construction, three octagonal storeys one on top of another, a bit Pagoda-like. The builder was an upstate New York doctor with a theory about how optimally efficient octagons were with regard to the materials used in relation to the space provided. Fine, but it does leave some strange spaces inside. Characteristically Ian knew all about him and had his book on the theory. The Muellers had equipped the house with octagonal plates and glasses, even furniture. Geoffrey likes to try to be useful, if there is a weekend job to be done, and was duly given the task of mowing the lawn. This he did very badly, not being able to get the hang of adjusting the blades to give a close cut. Ian was far too polite to comment on the mess. This was a weekend of amazing gastronomy (Ian put in a star performance with a lobster dish and we had many great gastronomic experiences on a later shared months-long study period in Paris) and we had many long walks in the woods. True, these were at rather different speeds. Shortlegged Geoffrey found it a bit difficult to keep up with longlegged Ian, and Janel and Ji were even further behind. We talked in pairs and then as a foursome, about work, and friends, and family, discovering how much we had in common, tastes, opinions, values, loves and dislikes.
    His death leaves a great hole in our hearts.

    Ji and Geoffrey Lloyd

  13. Michael V Wedin says:

    In the fall of my second year at Chicago I enrolled in the graduate logic class. It was Ian’s first class at Chicago. He swept into the room, tall and energetic, looking very sharp in a khaki summer suit and tie and well-shined shoes. Immediately, he asked us what we thought logic was and, just as immediately, he got many high-flung answers—the underpinning of all thought, the articulation of reality, and someone (maybe Bill Lycan) said something about the deep structure of language. Adopting a slightly pained look, Ian replied, “Look, it’s just a system; learn it and you’ll get thought the course fine.” In this way did I learn to flag my Quinean variables. He later divulged to me that he’d thought I commuted in from the North Side. To my astonishment (I’d done no philosophy before graduate school at UC) I got the top grade in his logic final. Maybe that caused him to take a chance on me, a year later when we began to read the Ross edition of Aristotle’s Metaphysics.

    At the beginning of the following year Ian approached John Stevenson and me about reading some Aristotle. We met weekly, slowly plowing through book Zeta line by puzzling line. At that time almost nothing of use had been written on Zeta, so John and I felt like we were doing real pioneering work. Ian was less sure of this. Each week one of us would take a shot at interpreting a section. Most of the time I thought I had the passage nailed, only to see it vanish, like ink fading on a page, under Ian’s patient questioning. But what never faded was the joy of dismantling the text and reconstructing a plausible and interesting interpretation. That, essentially, is what I still do. And when I do that, especially now, I feel a little closer to Ian.

    John and I were Ian’s first PhDs, John perhaps a quarter ahead of me. I had intended to write on Zeta, but its mysteries refused to yield, and so I switched to the simpler pleasures of Book Gamma. We uncovered a copy of Lukasiewcz’s “Ueber den Satz des Widerspruchs bei Aristoteles” in the Crerar Library. Stevenson knew no German, so I translated it. At Ian’s urging, I sent the thing off to the Review of Metaphysics; to my amazement they took it. Later, when a section of my still-in-progress dissertation was published, I began to think I could actually do the sort of thing Ian had been doing with us, so effectively and so intensely. Economy, clarity, and conceptual significance were the watchwords of philosophical writing for Ian. Coming from a more expansive intellectual background, these were virtues to be developed. And developed they were, under Ian’s remarkably careful, complete, and sympathetic markups of my dissertation chapters. Sentence after sentence was rewritten to show me how better to make my point. As fewer sentences needed such therapy, I knew the thesis was nearing completion.

    Since receiving the terrible news from Janel, my mind has been filled with images and thoughts of those days in Chicago, including wonderful evenings at Ian and Janel’s. Ian’s smile and laughter, never at anyone’s expense, filled the room. In my final year, I first met Bill Wimsatt at a dinner given by Ian and Janel. And, earlier, Elizabeth Anscombe, visiting for the year, was there. In those days I went by my boyhood nickname, “Bud.” At one such gathering, I’m told my name came up, and Anscombe exclaimed, with evident irritation, “Who is this Bradwardine?” This greatly amused Ian and Janel, who passed the tale on to me, but I have no intelligence on what was said to Elizabeth.

    In 1968 anti-war forces gathered, protests abounded, and the Democrats came to Chicago. One afternoon several of us from the department headed to Lincoln Park to join a very large rally. As I surveyed the crowd, which was backed up for hundreds of yards, at about the 80 yard mark I spotted Ian (I believe with Bob Coburn). At that time it was still somewhat ‘risky’ for university professors to engage directly in social causes. Of course, Ian must have known this. But I believe he’d simply decided to follow his Socratic daimon. He was no different in the department where he always stood tall for what he thought was right, whether siding with students on reform of the preliminary exams or advocating for a course in Marxism (which he ended up teaching), or even more delicate matters—all this as an untenured professor.
    It has been, and continues to be, a source of inspiration and richness in my life to have worked with Ian at such a pivotal stage in my career and, as he once graciously allowed, in his career as well. Our friendship grew and continued in the years after Chicago. He would call from Hyde Park to arrange dinner with me at an APA meeting and once he just showed up, as if by magic, for a paper I was giving in England—not entirely supererogatory, as he had been staying at Richard Sorabji’s in London. An immense pleasure nonetheless.

    The idea that Ian would not be around just never occurred to me. Of course, we have lost one of the most distinguished scholars among us and, with that, significant contributions to our field. But I have taken this loss personally. The heart-breaking news of his death hit very hard. On the evening Janel informed me, I lit a candle for Ian and, as I watched the flame die, an utterly unbearable sadness overwhelmed me. The smile, the laughter, the generous heart, the incisive mind and the fair hand—they are gone. I have them in memory, Janel, and while I know that will not be enough, it will help.

    You are in my thoughts.

  14. Bruce Lincoln says:

    I was shocked and saddened to learn of Ian’s death, for he was someone who combined intelligence, integrity, commitment, and kindness in quite extraordinary ways. Although I knew of Ian and his work, particularly his heroic efforts around the campaign for divestment from profiteering in apartheid, I met him for the first time in spring 2008, when he was among the first group of people to rally against the University’s attempts to enshrine the same neo-liberal commitment to profit above all by creating its Milton Friedman Institute. Both Ian and Janel brought the wisdom of their experiences to our discussions and I benefitted enormously from their sage counsel at any number of junctures.

    Ian was particularly generous in sharing his memories of the divestment struggle, as well as his deep knowledge of institutional history. From him, I learned how power had been slowly drained from the statutory organs of faculty governance, how various administrations had negotiated with their critics, sometimes in better and sometimes in worse faith, and how the outcomes of various encounters were not always what they seemed. His perceptions were always acute, nuanced, insightful. At times he was angry, but even then his anger was tempered by a capacity for reflection and even bemusement. Is it too trite to call it philosophical?

    Although his own views could be strong, Ian also was consistently interested in hearing from others and in thinking things through collectively. Conversation with him was dynamic, open-ended, and a real exchange of views, from which all involved benefitted. I saw him for the last time just a week or two before his death, when we ran into each other in the library, paused to chat for a while and caught up on things. He seemed in excellent health and spirits, full of energy and sharp observations, but also gentle, kind, and gracious as ever. We couldn’t have spoken for more than ten minutes, but I enjoyed our brief exchange thoroughly and came away cheered from it. At some level, I assumed there would be many more and it is dreadful to realize this isn’t so. I will miss him greatly, but I’m grateful for having known him and treasure the memory of a splendid man whom I both liked and admired.

  15. Jim Chandler says:

    Ian Mueller was a person who set high standands for himself and hoped that others would do the same. If they didn’t, he would let them know, but mainly by example. In fact, one of the most impressive things about him was the way in which he combined such strict principles, rigorously followed, with a kind of easygoing geniality of manner. Ian stayed with Becky and me in London in the mid-1980s, at a time when he and Janel had already been leaders of the struggle for divestment from South Africa, and when I believe Ian had already resigned as chair of philosophy over a matter of principle. We were a little intimidated at the prospect. But for the days he was with us in London, Ian was in fact a wonderfully easy and amiable guest. He worked in the British Museum by day, went to theater and music in the evening, and would return home (in Finsbury Park) by way of the off-licence at the corner, where he would have picked up a sixpack of Australian beer for us all to share in late evening as we compared notes about our days. We had two small children then so his days in London were always more interesting than ours. On his last night, he took Becky and me to see Chekhov’s The Seagull with Vanessa Redgrave. He had all kinds of interesting things to say about the play and the production–which he thought a bit stodgy. He was in fact an avid theater goer, and he understood a lot about dramatic performance.

    He never minced words but for all that he was always up for good conversation. What little I remembered about Anaxogores and Anaximander from college would not get us very far, but Ian was always interested in other things, and especially in what you were doing, and, for all his modesty, he knew more about lots of things than he would sometimes let on. He loved to talk about the University, which about which he cared deeply, and about politics, about which he cared far more.

    The marriage of Janel and Ian, their many modes of collaboration and companionship was one of the seven wonders of Hyde Park. I say that with assurance but without being at all sure that there are six others. They were an impressive partnership on campus, where, between them, they kept the important Core sequence in Greek Thought and Literature going for many years. They were an amazing team at the Hyde Park house, where Ian would cook up a storm and play back music he had taped off the FM radio long after it must have become economically inefficient to reproduce music this way. They were perhaps even more impressive at their Octagonal House, in Douglas, Michgan, which boasted an impressive garden and many kinds of objects formed in octagonal shapes. I suspect, though, that they were best on the road. I never traveled with them but I heard much about the pre-trip preparations and I enjoyed the post-trip photos and stories. When they were teaching together in Greek Thought and Literature years ago, they decided to take a tour of the ancient Hittite sites in Turkey. “Scorch and burn tourism” they called it. No stone unturned. I hope Janel can now manage to educate her daughters in these strenuous and rewarding ways of seeing the world.

    My other memories of Ian were on the basketball court. At one point, maybe thirty years ago, giving away ten years to me and my colleagues and another 15 to the graduate students we were playing with, Ian came and played in the English department game at the Field House.. His moves were clearly from another epoch (sweeping hook shots and two handed layups) but he exploited the unfamiliarity of these moves very well, and acquitted himself quite effectively in the end. He was a New Englander and thus a Celtics fan, but he once told me that he stopped watching the NBA because the defense in that era was so poor that all leads were meaningless. The great popularity of the NBA began a few years later, when teams like the Celtics, Lakers, and Bulls began to play real defense again.

    Ian’s untimely death is a loss to us all, and cruel blow to Janel, who had every reason to look forward to many happy years of retirement with her constant companion. Our deepest sympathies go out to her and Maria and Monica.


  16. I had the immense privilege to get to know Ian better thanks to a months-long program on proof in ancient traditions, which I organized in Paris in 2002 and of which Ian was a core member. It was a pleasure to get to appreciate Ian’s genuine generosity and care for others, his scholarly open-mindedness towards new ideas and new sources, his readiness in embracing new perspectives.

    I remember with emotion sharing good moments with Ian, good meals for instance, which you knew Ian appreciated through the large smile that illuminated his face. This large smile illuminating a face full of wit and kindness will remain with me for the decades to go.

    From the very first minute when Ian arrived in Paris, I could feel the strength of his link with Janel, whom I also met soon thereafter. We can perceive the loss, dear Janel, dear family. Do know that we shall work with you to keep Ian alive among us.

    Affectionately, Karine

  17. Bob Kendrick says:

    I’ll miss Ian so much, and I feel terribly for Janel and all the family at his so sudden and premature passing. It was inspiring to see him at work in his study every day,
    pushing on with his research, a real model for all of us when we get to retirement age. Every time I go past his study door in JRL, the loss hits me quite strongly.
    I also learned much by listening to his stories about South African divestment–not least how hard it was for students and faculty to make the University do the right thing morally. His calm presence in all the meetings about the MFI in the last few years was an anchor for all of us organizing to have the University hold to its principles and its Statutes. Certainly all the efforts for social justice at Chicago will feel his lack for a long time to come. Sadly, Bob Kendrick

  18. Erik Curiel says:

    I was in the Chicago philosophy graduate program during the 1990s. My
    primary field of study was philosophy of physics, but I spent a good
    third of my time on ancient Greek philosophy as well, most of it with
    Ian. I adored Ian, both personally and professionally. I feel
    privileged to have been his student, and even more to have known him
    as a person. I find as I make my way through the world of academic
    philosophy that by and large the people who know Ian—and when
    someone in the field knows Ian, they invariably revere him—are those
    people who themselves do the finest work.

    Ian was a philosopher’s philosopher—a true scholar and open-minded
    thinker who never let his astonishing carefulness and thoroughness
    degenerate into pedantry. He was the only person I know who could
    make the commentaries and the apparatuses fun. (Indeed, this is the
    thanks I gave him in the “Acknowledgments” section of my doctoral
    dissertation, the second person I thanked there: “It is a pleasure to
    acknowledge and thank the following people…. Ian Mueller—for
    exemplifying the spirit of careful scholarship, and for making me
    realize that sometimes (not often, but sometimes) studying the
    secondary literature can be almost as rewarding as reading the
    original text.”)

    This is one of my fondest memories of Ian. We were in the weekly
    group he used to lead on Aristotle’s *Metaphysics*, going through a
    particularly difficult passage in Book Lambda, as always going through
    the text line by line, word by word (while always keeping an eye
    firmly fixed on the bigger picture). At one point, I recalled that
    Ross, in the commentary to his edition of the Greek, had an
    interesting take on a disputed reading, so I offered my recollected
    gloss on it. Ian looked puzzled, and said surely that was not right,
    that was not what Ross had said. I guess I was feeling cocky, because
    normally I would have deferred to Ian’s mastery of the apparatus, but
    on that occasion I was sure I was right and said so. Like dueling
    gunslingers, Ian and I simultaneously and gleefully (albeit, Ian in
    his understated way) reached for our copies of Ross and scrambled to
    beat each other to the relevant part of the commentary. At about the
    same moment, again, we each declared ourselves to be right. And
    looked at each other puzzled, because we could not both be right.
    After a moment’s confusion, we worked out that I had the second
    edition of Ross and Ian had the first. I figured that was the end of
    the matter, but Ian asked to see my copy. Lovingly he lay the two
    editions side by side and perused them in turn for several moments,
    working out the details and subtleties of Ross’s apparent change of
    heart, clearly trying to figure out not only the substance but the
    reasons behind it. Finally, dreamily, he looked up, eyes on the
    Platonic Heaven, and said softly, “God help me, I love this stuff.”

    I tried to tell Ian several times how much he meant to me, how much he
    had contributed to my intellectual development—how much of my
    teaching and research, even to this day, even on topics not related to
    ancient philosophy, is still done with him consciously in my mind as a
    paragon. He always brushed it aside with a shy modesty that was
    humbling to me. I know full well that I am far from the only one of
    Ian’s ex-students to feel this way.

  19. Martha Feldman says:

    As I wrote Janel, I cannot imagine a world without both her and Ian, the two together, so I cannot see why Janel should have to do so. Beautiful, statuesque,
    brilliant, and conscientious is how I think of them together. Irradiated
    from the outside with inner light, reading side by side at concerts,
    leaving the faculty study wing, leaving the offices for the day….

    I did not know Ian well but from afar I watched him love Janel for nearly twenty years. I also saw him come to a philosophy defense (I was a Dean’s representative) hauling a double pile of books too big even for Ian to carry. That’s a lot of books and a lot of conscience, and conscientiousness. May he rest in deep peace.

  20. Ian’s knowledge was prodigious, and his ideas were of major and lasting importance. I was in awe of him from the first time I met him, at an international meeting in Paris in 1986. Much later, I was deeply honored to become his colleague. Ian wore his brilliance very lightly. As a colleague he was generous, modest and reticent about his achievements. But he set a standard of excellence and purity of endeavor for us all.

    Although the involvement of Ian and Janel with racial justice in South Africa predated my own arrival at the University, I heard of it often from them and from others. Ian was a great force for social justice, both outside the university and within it, as for example in the active part he and Janel played in a faculty initiative to persuade the University to divest its investments in firms doing business in apartheid South Africa. It is a measure of our growth as a university and a community, I believe, that the values for which they then stood, once heterodox, are now embodied in the University’s sense of its mission in the neighborhood and in the world.

  21. Michael Kremer says:

    I did not know Ian well. He was either already near retirement at the time of my arrival in Chicago. Nonetheless I was saddened and shocked when he died. I remember him as a friendly and reassuring presence whenever I encountered him and his warm smile. The love he and Janel had for one another was evident whenever I would see them together. It is good to see these recollections and learn more about his life both inside and outside of the academy. Stories about the logical behavior of children and Hallowe’en costumes bring back many fond memories of my own daughters’ younger days and help me to appreciate the simply human side of a man I had only encountered as an emeritus colleague with a profound knowledge of his field. I am very sorry for his loss, especially as Janel was so supportive of me at the time of my own wife’s death just months earlier.

  22. Eric Schliesser says:

    Ian Mueller supervised my preliminary essay on Plato’s Laws and was — due to his extensive knowledge of Marx and his love of philosophy, more generally — a very valued and critical reader of my dissertation (on Newton, Hume and Adam Smith).

    Ian was one of two people at The University of Chicago that I nominated for a graduate teaching award. He won it the same year, I believe, as Janel (of whom he always spoke with pride and affection). His graduate teaching style can be best described as follows: you take a canonical text. You go through it line by line with your students, eliciting from them the now standard/canonical (often very dull) reading (sometimes you assign that, too). You then carefully show with them how it cannot possibly be right. Then you draw attention to an exciting, non-standard reading. Just before the end of class you show it, too, has fatal objections. Class ends (like a Platonic dialogue) in aporia. Repeat exercise at next class. Eric Brown reminded me that sometimes he would go through many more flawed positions.)

    I always though of Mueller’s as the (contemporary) philosophers’ philosopher introduction to Euclid (and Greek math more generally). His book is just full of subtle arguments and observation. Like most of the great commentaries on Euclid (with which Ian was very familiar) it is as informative about Euclid as it is about the state of play in philosophic reflection on mathematics of its own day. Ian’s contribution to Kraut’s Cambridge Companion to Plato I continue to re-read with pleasure. I am always annoyed by those who tried to treat Ian as a niche scholar of ancient math–his papers help unlock far wider issues in Ancient Greek thought (no surprise given the importance of mathematical thinking in their philosophy); given the centrality of Euclid to western ‘scientific’ thought his work is very significant for understanding our philosophic culture.

    My qualifying paper on the Laws was a commentary, and (despite opposition by others in the department) he was very supportive of it. If it weren’t for his encouragement I probably would have left the discipline. But after the whole ordeal he told me he doubted anybody would ever get Plato convincingly right, but that there was still much to learn from Plato reception, both in the Ancient world but also from later periods (something I take to heart in some of my Early Modern scholarship). I had chosen the commentary form without much reflection, but much later something dawned upon me. While I did not keep up with all of his recent scholarship or the translations of the commentators, which I suspect he viewed as a kind of service to the discipline, but — more poetically — I decided that his commitment to these might be a way of rehabilitating the commentary tradition as a philosophic art. Ian always led by quiet example. He will be very much missed.

  23. David & Peggy Bevington says:

    We remember Ian’s pleasure, years ago, in telling of his daughter Monica’s precocious logic. She must have been of Nursery School age. He was giving her lunch one day; Maria was perhaps in kindergarten at the time. An issue arose about Monica’s preferences among the various foods that Ian had served out. As Ian reports the conversation, Monica said something like this: Do you see this mountain of mashed potato? Do you see this tiny dessert? I am a very small person. Is it reasonable that I could eat all that potato? The small dessert is just my size.

    Ian was pleased to be having lunch with a logician.

    We also remember, with pleasure, one Hallowe’en evening when, as we sometimes did, the Bevingtons and Muellers did the Hallowe’en rounds together in our neighborhood. One of the daughters (we forget which) had been outfitted by her clever parents to resemble a large cash register. When a householder answered the door, a loud bell would ring on the cash register and a spacious drawer would be thrust forward to receive Hallowe’en offerings.

    with much love and fond memories, David and Peggy Bevington

  24. Richard Stern says:

    Dear Janel,
    >Ian was a wonderful person. In all the Chicago years, I
    >never heard a word about him that wasn’t praise. He radiated
    >decency, intelligence, sympathy, good humor. It was clear
    >that his love for you was at the center of his life. That
    >your beautiful marriage should end so swiftly is
    >heartbreaking. Your description of the breakdown and your
    >working on his work testify to the strength which will
    >continue to pull you through darkness.
    >Alane joins me in this sad condolence.

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