Mario Bunge

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Mario Bunge
Bunge in 2007
Born(1919-09-21)September 21, 1919
DiedFebruary 24, 2020(2020-02-24) (aged 100)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
EducationNational University of La Plata (PhD, 1952)
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolAnalytic philosophy
Scientific realism
Main interests
Philosophy of science
Philosophy of physics
Notable ideas
Systemics, sociotechnology

Mario Augusto Bunge (/ˈbʊŋɡ/;[3] Spanish: [ˈbuŋxe]; September 21, 1919 – 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"[1]: 211  and a critic of existentialist, hermeneutical, phenomenological philosophy, and postmodernism.[1]: 172  He was popularly known for his opinions against pseudoscience.


Bunge was born on September 21, 1919, in Florida Oeste, Buenos Aires, Argentina.[4]: 1  His mother, Marie Herminie Müser, was a German nurse who left Germany just before the beginning of World War I.[1]: 1–2  His father, Augusto Bunge, also of some German descent, was an Argentine physician and socialist legislator.[1]: 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]: 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 Argentine mathematician Marta Cavallo.[1]: 5  Mario lived with Marta in Montreal since 1966, with one-year sabbaticals in other countries.[1]: 413 

Studies and career[edit]

Bunge began his studies at the National University of La Plata, graduating with a PhD in physico-mathematical sciences in 1952.[5] He was professor of theoretical physics and philosophy, 1956–1966, first at La Plata then at University of Buenos Aires.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7][8][5]

In a review of Bunge's 2016 memoirs, Between Two Worlds: Memoirs of a Philosopher-Scientist,[1] 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".[9]

He became a centenarian in September 2019. A Festschrift was published to mark the occasion, with essays by an international collection of scholars.[10] He died in Montreal, Canada, on February 24, 2020, at the age of 100.[11][12]


Bunge defined himself as a left-wing liberal and democratic socialist, in the tradition of John Stuart Mill and José Ingenieros.[1]: 345–347 [13] 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.[14]



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.[5] 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.[15] Bunge repeatedly and explicitly denied being a logical positivist,[16] and wrote on metaphysics.[17]

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.[1]

Among many frameworks that Bunge proposed was a five-stage model of the maturation of science from immature prescience to mature tetartoscience: see Protoscience § Developmental stages of science.[18]

Popularly, he is known for his remarks considering psychoanalysis as an example of pseudoscience.[19] He was critical of the ideas of well known scientists and philosophers such as Karl Popper, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and Daniel Dennett.[9]

Bunge appreciated some aspects of Popper's critical rationalism but found it insufficient as a comprehensive philosophy of science,[20] and instead formulated his own account of scientific realism.[21] John R. Wettersen, who defined "critical rationalism" more broadly than Popper's work, called Bunge's theory of science "a version of critical rationalism".[22]

Philosophy of social sciences[edit]

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".[23]


Bunge was the recipient of many awards throughout his career.[4]: 2 

Bunge was also distinguished with twenty-one honorary doctorates and four honorary professorships by universities from both the Americas and Europe.[25] He is in the "Science Hall of Fame"[4]: 2  featured in Science in 2011.[26]

Selected publications[edit]

  • 1959. Causality: The Place of the Causal Principle in Modern Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. (Fourth edition, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2009.)
  • 1960. La ciencia, su método y su filosofía. Buenos Aires: Eudeba. (In French: La science, sa méthode et sa philosophie. Paris: Vigdor, 2001, ISBN 2910243907.)
  • 1962. Intuition and Science. Prentice-Hall. (In French: Intuition et raison. Paris: Vigdor, 2001, ISBN 2910243893.)
  • 1963. The Myth of Simplicity: Problems of Scientific Philosophy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • 1967. Scientific Research: Strategy and Philosophy. Volume 1: The Search for System. Volume 2: The Search for Truth. Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag. Revised and reprinted as Philosophy of Science, 2 Vols. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1998.
  • 1967. Foundations of Physics. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer-Verlag.
  • 1973. Method, Model, and Matter. Dordrecht: Reidel.
  • 1973. Philosophy of Physics. Dordrecht: Reidel.
  • 1977. "Emergence and the Mind", Neuroscience 2(4), 501–509.
  • 1980. The Mind-Body Problem. Oxford: Pergamon.
  • 1981. Scientific Materialism. Dordrecht: Reidel.
  • 1983. "Demarcating Science from Pseudoscience", Fundamenta Scientiae 3: 369–388.
  • 1984. "What is Pseudoscience?", The Skeptical Inquirer 9: 36–46.
  • 1987. Philosophy of Psychology (with Rubén Ardila). New York: Springer.
  • 1987. "Why Parapsychology Cannot Become a Science", Behavioral and Brain Sciences 10: 576–577.
  • 1988. Ciencia y desarrollo. Buenos Aires: Siglo Veinte.
  • 1974–89. Treatise on Basic Philosophy:[27] 8 volumes in 9 parts:
    • I: Semantics I: Sense and Reference. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1974.
    • II: Semantics II: Interpretation and Truth. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1974.
    • III: Ontology I: The Furniture of the World. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1977.
    • IV: Ontology II: A World of Systems. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1979.
    • V: Epistemology and Methodology I: Exploring the World. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1983.
    • VI: Epistemology and Methodology II: Understanding the World. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1983.
    • VII: Epistemology and Methodology III: Philosophy of Science and Technology: Part I. Formal and Physical Sciences. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1985. Part II. Life Science, Social Science and Technology. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1985.
    • VIII: Ethics: the Good and the Right. Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1989.
  • 1996. Finding Philosophy in Social Science. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • 1996. "Is Religious Education Compatible with Science Education?" (with Martin Mahner), Science & Education 5(2), 101–123.
  • 1997. Foundations of Biophilosophy (with Martin Mahner). New York: Springer.
  • 1997. "Mechanism and Explanation", Philosophy of the Social Sciences 27(4), 410–465.
  • 1998. Dictionary of Philosophy. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  • 1998. Elogio de la curiosidad. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana.
  • 1998. Social Science under Debate: A Philosophical Perspective. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • 1999. The Sociology–Philosophy Connection. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
  • 2001. Philosophy in Crisis: The Need for Reconstruction. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  • 2001. Scientific Realism: Selected Essays of Mario Bunge. Edited by Martin Mahner. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  • 2003. Emergence and Convergence: Qualitative Novelty and the Unity of Knowledge. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • 2004. "How Does It Work? The Search for Explanatory Mechanisms", Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34(2), 182–210.
  • 2004. Über die Natur der Dinge. Materialismus und Wissenschaft (with Martin Mahner). Stuttgart: S. Hirzel Verlag.
  • 2006. Chasing Reality: Strife over Realism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • 2009. Political Philosophy: Fact, Fiction, and Vision. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
  • 2010. Matter and Mind: A Philosophical Inquiry. New York: Springer.
  • 2012. Evaluating Philosophies. New York: Springer.
  • 2012. "Does Quantum Physics Refute Realism, Materialism and Determinism?", Science & Education 21(10): 1601–1610.
  • 2013. Medical Philosophy: Conceptual Issues in Medicine. New Jersey: World Scientific Publishing Company.
  • 2016. Between Two Worlds: Memoirs of a Philosopher–Scientist. New York: Springer.
  • 2017. Doing Science: In the Light of Philosophy. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company.
  • 2018. From a Scientific Point of View: Reasoning and Evidence Beat Improvisation across Fields. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bunge, Mario (2016). Between Two Worlds: Memoirs of a Philosopher-Scientist. Springer Biographies. Berlin; New York: Springer-Verlag. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-29251-9. ISBN 9783319292502. OCLC 950889848.
  2. ^ Bunge said that he "taught [himself] philosophy between 1936 and 1956" while he was a regular physics student (between 1938 and 1944), studying nuclear physics under Guido Beck (see: Mario Bunge, "Philosophy of Science and Technology: A Personal Report", Contemporary Philosophy, Volume 8: Philosophy of Latin America, pp. 245–272, edited by Guttorm Fløistad Kluwer).
  3. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Mario Bunge, philosopher and physicist. McGill University on YouTube. November 3, 2015. Event occurs at 0:03. Retrieved February 27, 2020. Interview with Bunge in which the interviewer gives a pronunciation of his name.
  4. ^ a b c d Matthews, Michael R., ed. (2019). Mario Bunge: a Centenary Festschrift. Cham: Springer-Verlag. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-16673-1. ISBN 9783030166724. OCLC 1109956992. S2CID 264431501.
  5. ^ a b c d "Fellows: Mario A. Bunge". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on June 22, 2011. Retrieved January 29, 2010.
  6. ^ Matthews, Michael R. (July–August 2020). "Mario Bunge: Physicist, Philosopher, Champion of Science, Citizen of the World (1919–2020)". Skeptical Inquirer. Vol. 44, no. 4. Amherst, NY: Center for Inquiry. pp. 7–8.
  7. ^ Spitzberg, Daniel (November 8, 2007). "Mario Bunge: Philosophy in flux". McGill Reporter. Archived from the original on December 13, 2007. Retrieved January 29, 2010.
  8. ^ "Biography: Mario Bunge, PhD, FRSC". University of Ottawa. Archived from the original on February 15, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Alcock, James (2017). "The Scientist and the Philosopher". Skeptical Inquirer. 41 (2): 58–61.
  10. ^ Frazier, Kendrick (January–February 2020). "Science, Philosophy, and a Lifetime of Reason: A Mario Bunge Festschrift". Skeptical Inquirer. Vol. 44, no. 1. Amherst, New York: Center for Inquiry. p. 9.
  11. ^ "Fallece a los cien años el filósofo argentino Mario Bunge". La Vanguardia (in Spanish). February 25, 2020.
  12. ^ "Muere a los 100 años el físico y filósofo argentino Mario Bunge". CNN en Español (in Spanish). February 25, 2020.
  13. ^ Kary, Michael (2019). "Ethical Politics and Political Ethics II: On Socialism Through Integral Democracy". In Matthews, Michael R. (ed.). Mario Bunge: A Centenary Festschrift. Cham: Springer-Verlag. pp. 513–534. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-16673-1_29. ISBN 9783030166724. OCLC 1109956992. S2CID 199359247.
  14. ^ "Overview: Professors". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  15. ^ Bunge, Mario (1989). Ethics: The Good and the Right. Treatise on Basic Philosophy. Vol. 8. Dordrecht; Boston: D. Reidel. p. xiv. doi:10.1007/978-94-009-2601-1. ISBN 9027728399. OCLC 19354927. 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.
  16. ^ Bunge 2016, pp. 113, 335: "... mainly because of the vulgar confusion between scientism and positivism, I am often regarded as a positivist despite my many criticisms of positivism. ... When [Gino] Germani invited me to take part in the panel for the conference on science and positivism that he had organized, I assaulted positivism and thus provoked Gino's anger. I had not realized that, in that milieu, positivism was confused with scientism. ... I had read some of the genuine positivists, from Comte, Mach and Duhem to Reichenbach, Carnap and Philipp Rank, and had thoroughly criticized their attempt to interpret physics in anthropocentric terms, from sensation to measurement."
  17. ^ See, for example, volumes 3 and 4 of his Treatise on Basic Philosophy.
  18. ^ Bunge, Mario (1983). "Epistemic Change". Epistemology & Methodology II: Understanding the World. Treatise on Basic Philosophy. Vol. 6. Dordrecht; Boston: D. Reidel. pp. 158–161 (160). doi:10.1007/978-94-015-6921-7_4. ISBN 902771634X. OCLC 9759870.
  19. ^ For example: Bud, Robert; Bunge, Mario (October 2010). "For and against psychoanalysis: Is psychoanalysis science or pseudoscience?". New Scientist. 208 (2780): 22–23. doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(10)62400-1. See also: Bunge, Mario (2001). "Diagnosing pseudoscience". Philosophy in Crisis: The Need for Reconstruction. Prometheus lectures. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. pp. 161–189. ISBN 1573928437. OCLC 45123524.
  20. ^ See, for example:
    • Bunge, Mario (1983). "Systematizing". Epistemology & Methodology I: Exploring the World. Treatise on Basic Philosophy. Vol. 5. Dordrecht; Boston: D. Reidel. pp. 323–376 (368). doi:10.1007/978-94-009-7027-4_10. ISBN 9027715114. OCLC 9412962. 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).
    • Bunge, Mario (1983). "Producing Evidence". Epistemology & Methodology II: Understanding the World. Treatise on Basic Philosophy. Vol. 6. Dordrecht; Boston: D. Reidel. pp. 59–113 (70). doi:10.1007/978-94-015-6921-7_2. ISBN 902771634X. OCLC 9759870. 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.
  21. ^ See, for example, among secondary sources:
    • Quintanilla, Miguel A. (1982). "Materialist Foundations of Critical Rationalism". In Agassi, Joseph; Cohen, Robert S. (eds.). Scientific Philosophy Today. Boston Studies in the Philosophy Of Science. Vol. 67. Dordrecht; Boston: D. Reidel. pp. 225–237. doi:10.1007/978-94-009-8462-2_14. ISBN 902771262X. OCLC 7596359. 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.
    • Pickel, Andreas (June 2004). "Systems and Mechanisms: A Symposium on Mario Bunge's Philosophy of Social Science". Philosophy of the Social Sciences. 34 (2): 169–181. doi:10.1177/0048393103262549. S2CID 144665982. 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.
    • Agassi, Joseph; Bar-Am, Nimrod (2019). "Bunge contra Popper". In Matthews, Michael R. (ed.). Mario Bunge: A Centenary Festschrift. Cham: Springer-Verlag. pp. 263–272. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-16673-1_15. ISBN 9783030166724. OCLC 1089222139. S2CID 199318101. 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.
  22. ^ Wettersen, John R. "Karl Popper and Critical Rationalism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  23. ^ Bunge, Mario (1997). "Mechanism and Explanation". Philosophy of the Social Sciences. 27 (4): 410–465 (414). doi:10.1177/004839319702700402. S2CID 143549022.
  24. ^ "Ludwig von Bertalanffy Award in Complexity Thinking". Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  25. ^ Bar-Am, Nimrod; Gattei, Stefano, eds. (2017). "About the authors". Encouraging Openness: Essays for Joseph Agassi on the Occasion of his 90th Birthday. New York: Springer-Verlag. p. 568. ISBN 9783319576688.
  26. ^ Bohannon, John (January 2011). "The Science Hall of Fame". Science. 331 (6014): 143. Bibcode:2011Sci...331..143B. doi:10.1126/science.331.6014.143-c. PMID 21233362.
  27. ^ Bunge's Treatise on Basic Philosophy stands as his major achievement. It encompasses a quadrivium which he considers "the nucleus of contemporary philosophy", namely, semantics (theories of meaning and truth), ontology (general theories of the world), epistemology (theories of knowledge), and ethics (theories of value and right action). For approximately two decades, Bunge engaged in writing his magnum opus to investigate and synthesize contemporary philosophy in a single grand system that is compatible with the advancement of modern human knowledge both scientifically and philosophically. Treatise on Basic Philosophy: Semantics (I & II), Ontology (III–IV), Epistemology and Methodology (V–VII) Axiology and Ethics (VIII). All of these 8 volumes in 9 parts are currently in print, available under the Springer-Verlag imprint.

Further reading[edit]

  • Agassi, Joseph and Robert S. Cohen (eds.). 1982. Scientific Philosophy Today: Essays in Honor of Mario Bunge. Reidel.
  • Denegri, Guillermo and Gladys E. Martínez (2000). Tópicos actuales en filosofía de la ciencia. Homenaje a Mario Bunge en su 80º aniversario. Mar del Plata, Editorial Martín.
  • Marone, Luis and Rafael González del Solar (2000). "Homenaje a Mario Bunge, o por qué las preguntas en Ecología deberían comenzar con 'por qué'". In Denegri, Guillermo and Gladys E. Martínez (2000). Tópicos actuales en filosofía de la ciencia. Homenaje a Mario Bunge en su 80º aniversario. Mar del Plata, Editorial Martín. pp. 153–178.
  • Matthews, Michael R. (ed.). 2019. Mario Bunge: Centenary Festschrift. New York: Springer.
  • Serroni-Copello, Raúl (1989). Encuentros con Mario Bunge. Asociación de Investigaciones en Psicología.
  • Vacher, Laurent-Michel (1993). Entretiens avec Mario Bunge. Montreal, Liber.
  • VV.AA. (2003). Congreso-homenaxe internacional a Mario Bunge. Mos (Galicia), Grupo Aletheia. [Includes articles in Spanish by M. Bunge (Inverse problems), J. Aracil (MB and systems theory), A. Barceló (Philosophy and economics: three Bungen notions), I, Morgado (Brain, mind and philosophy), J. Mosterín (Biographical sketch of MB), M. A. Quintanilla (Instrumental rationality) y Héctor Vucetich (Quantum mechanics and realism), and in English by M. Mahner (M. Bunge's philosophy of biology)].
  • Weingartner, Paul and George J. W. Dorn (eds.). 1990. Studies on Mario Bunge's Treatise. Amsterdam, Atlanta, Rodopi.

External links[edit]