Mario Bunge

Last updated
Mario Augusto Bunge
Born (1919-09-21) September 21, 1919 (age 99)
Education National University of La Plata (Ph.D., 1952)
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Scientific realism
Critical rationalism [1]
Main interests
Philosophy of science
Philosophy of physics
Notable ideas
Systemics, sociotechnology

Mario Augusto Bunge ( /ˈbʌŋɡi/ ; Spanish:  [ˈbuŋxe] ; born September 21, 1919) is an Argentine philosopher, philosopher of science and physicist who is mainly active in Canada.

Argentina federal republic in South America

Argentina, officially named the Argentine Republic, is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is also bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south. With a mainland area of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 sq mi), Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the fourth largest in the Americas, and the largest Spanish-speaking nation. The sovereign state is subdivided into twenty-three provinces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires, which is the federal capital of the nation as decided by Congress. The provinces and the capital have their own constitutions, but exist under a federal system. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Philosophy intellectual and/or logical study of general and fundamental problems

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Philosophy of science is a sub-field of philosophy concerned with the foundations, methods, and implications of science. The central questions of this study concern what qualifies as science, the reliability of scientific theories, and the ultimate purpose of science. This discipline overlaps with metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology, for example, when it explores the relationship between science and truth.



Early years

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. His father, Augusto Bunge, also of some German descent, was an Argentinian physician and socialist legislator. 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. [4]

Buenos Aires Place in Argentina

Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina. The city is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the South American continent's southeastern coast. "Buenos Aires" can be translated as "fair winds" or "good airs", but the former was the meaning intended by the founders in the 16th century, by the use of the original name "Real de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre". The Greater Buenos Aires conurbation, which also includes several Buenos Aires Province districts, constitutes the fourth-most populous metropolitan area in the Americas, with a population of around 15.6 million.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Wife and children

Bunge has 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. Mario and Marta live in Montreal.

Studies and career

Bunge began his studies at the National University of La Plata, graduating with a Ph.D. in physico-mathematical sciences in 1952. He was professor of theoretical physics and philosophy, 19561966, first at La Plata then at University of Buenos Aires. He was, until his recent retirement at age 90, the Frothingham Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at McGill University in Montreal, where he had been since 1966. [5] [6]

National University of La Plata national universitiy in Buenos Aires province, Argentina

The National University of La Plata is one of the most important Argentine national universities and the biggest one situated in the city of La Plata, capital of Buenos Aires Province. It has over 90,000 regular students, 10,000 teaching staff, 17 departments and 106 available degrees.

Theoretical physics branch of physics

Theoretical physics is a branch of physics that employs mathematical models and abstractions of physical objects and systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. This is in contrast to experimental physics, which uses experimental tools to probe these phenomena.

University of Buenos Aires university in Argentina

The University of Buenos Aires is the largest university in Argentina and the second largest university by enrollment in Latin America. Founded on August 12, 1821 in the city of Buenos Aires, it consists of 13 departments, 6 hospitals, 10 museums and is linked to 4 high schools: Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires, Escuela Superior de Comercio Carlos Pellegrini, Instituto Libre de Segunda Enseñanza and Escuela de Educación Técnica Profesional en Producción Agropecuaria y Agroalimentaria.

Bunge's students include Roger Angel, David Blitz, Mike Dillinger, Andrés Kálnay, Jean-Pierre Marquis, Dan A. Seni, Héctor Vucetich, and Miguel A. Quintanilla.


Bunge is a prolific intellectual, having written more than 400 papers and 80 books, notably his monumental Treatise on Basic Philosophy in 8 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. [6] Here, Bunge develops a comprehensive scientific outlook which he then applies to the various natural and social sciences.

Semantics is the linguistic and philosophical study of meaning, in language, programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics. It is concerned with the relationship between signifiers—like words, phrases, signs, and symbols—and what they stand for in reality, their denotation.

Ontology study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations

Ontology is the philosophical study of being. More broadly, it studies concepts that directly relate to being, in particular becoming, existence, reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

Epistemology A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

His thinking embodies global systemism, emergentism, rationalism, scientific realism, materialism and consequentialism. Bunge has repeatedly and explicitly denied being a logical positivist, and has written on metaphysics. In the political arena, Bunge has defined himself as a "left-wing liberal" and democratic socialist, in the tradition of John Stuart Mill and José Ingenieros. He is also 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. [7]

In the context of systems science and systems philosophy, systemics is an initiative to study systems. It is an attempt at developing logical, mathematical, engineering and philosophical paradigms and frameworks in which physical, technological, biological, social, cognitive and metaphysical systems can be studied and modeled.

In philosophy, emergentism is the belief in emergence, particularly as it involves consciousness and the philosophy of mind, and as it contrasts with reductionism. A property of a system is said to be emergent if it is a new outcome of some other properties of the system and their interaction, while it is itself different from them. Emergent properties are not identical with, reducible to, or deducible from the other properties. The different ways in which this independence requirement can be satisfied lead to variant types of emergence.

In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that "regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge" or "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification". More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive".

Popularly, he is known for his remarks considering psychoanalysis as an example of pseudoscience. [8] He has also freely criticized the ideas of well known scientists and philosophers such as Karl Popper, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and Daniel Dennett. [9]

In his review of Between Two Worlds: Memoirs of a Philosopher-Scientist, James Alcock sees 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]


Mario Bunge has been distinguished with twenty one honorary doctorates and four honorary professorships by universities from both the Americas and Europe. Bunge is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1984–) and of the Royal Society of Canada (1992–). In 1982 he was awarded the Premio Príncipe de Asturias (Prince of Asturias Award), in 2009 the Guggenheim Fellowship, [6] [10] and in 2014 the Ludwig von Bertalanffy Award in Complexity Thinking. [11]

Publications (selection)

See also

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  1. "Karl Popper and Critical Rationalism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy .
  2. Mario Bunge, Between Two Worlds: Memoirs of a Philosopher-Scientist, Springer, 2016, p. 113.
  3. Bunge relates 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).
  4. Memorias. Entre dos mundos. Barcelona: Gedisa
  5. Spitzberg, Daniel. "Mario Bunge: Philosophy in flux". McGill Reporter. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  6. 1 2 3 "Mario A. Bunge". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on 22 June 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  7. "Overview: Professors". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  8. RealClearScience - "Is Psychoanalysis Science or Pseudoscience?" Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  9. 1 2 Alcock, James (2017). "The Scientist and the Philosopher". Skeptical Inquirer . 41 (2): 58–61.
  10. "- BIOGRAPHY - Mario Bunge, PhD, FRSC". University of Ottawa. Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  12. 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 in order 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. A - 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