Bill died earlier this week. He’d been ill for a long time, but when I last talked to him it had stabilized, and while he was unable to travel internationally (so I haven’t seen him in a while), he was unconcerned. I had only got to know him personally a few years ago at a conference in Nancy organized by Gerhard Heinzmann.
I am particularly devastated by this news because he and I had, since that conference, been discussing various Carnap-related issues, first surrounding his 2011 paper in Journal of Philosophy on extending ESO to the realism-instrumentalism controversy, through its various drafts before it appeared (in my Oxford Bibliography on Carnap, I call it the “deepest and subtlest analysis of ESO published to date, probing questions Carnap left open”); he had given an early version of it at that Nancy conference. He republished it along with several other papers on Carnap (and other matters) in his collection Logicism and its Philosophical Legacy. When I read that book, I was struck how the Carnap papers added up to a very compelling and original overall interpretation which, however, was never spelled out in any one of them.
I mentioned this to him a year or two ago when I was inviting papers for the Monist special issue on Carnap, and asked whether he’d be willing to write such a paper for that issue. It turned out that he’d been thinking exactly the same thing, about a general synthesis putting his overall view of Carnap together in one place, and would be happy to do that for the Monist issue. So I was very much looking forward to getting his draft so we could continue our conversation begun in Nancy. Even a few weeks ago he was still hoping to send me something before the end of the year. Alas, it will never be! It is a loss for the Monist issue, a loss for the Carnap world (and even the world at large, I would venture) not to have this general statement of his exceptionally careful and well-thought out conception of Carnap, and a particularly acute loss for me personally, as I’d really been looking forward to arguing with him about that conception. One shouldn’t let one’s self get so distracted, one shouldn’t put things off for too long!