Photo: Cata Portin
Raimo Tuomela was a pioneer in the field of collective intentionality and social ontology. He helped to establish the series of Collective Intentionality, ENSO, and Social Ontology conferences, and was a founder, president and honorary president of the International Social Ontology Society. Soft spoken in person, he has had an outsized influence on the social and intellectual infrastructure from which we have all benefited. Raimo was a dear friend and collaborator for many of us. He will be missed.
Abe Roth and Michael Schmitz for ISOS
I was shocked and saddened to hear of the recent death of Raimo Tuomela. We first met in Princeton in the 1970s, when he was specializing in action theory. Later our academic paths began to converge. He reviewed my book On Social Facts (1989) and I reviewed his book The Importance of Us (1995). In 1997 I contributed a paper ("What is it for Us to Intend?") to a volume on social action that he edited with Ghita Holmstrom-Hintikka.
In 1999 he and Wolfgang Balzer, a close colleague of his in Munich, organized the first "collective intentionality" conference in that city, and invited me to be the (or a) keynote speaker. It was a lively occasion, the beginning of a series of increasingly large conferences that helped to establish what was essentially a new discipline within the framework of analytic philosophy. Naturally enough I saw Raimo again at several of these conferences, including the one hosted by him and his colleagues in Helsinki in 2006. I recall the level of excitement at the conference dinner there, where Raimo was lauded by all for his contributions to the field: there was a great and lasting din of clapping hands.
Raimo and I largely interacted as professional colleagues, meeting at conferences over many years. I should like to end this brief reminiscence, though, with an occasion that I recall with pleasure on account of its rarity. This was in Leipzig, and must have been during the collective intentionality conference there in 2000. I remember little of that particular conference, though I have fond memories of the historic city in which it was held. I do remember that Raimo and I went to the opera together one evening. With recourse only to my memory, I don't remember what opera it was, or what we talked about during the interval. I do remember that it was a pleasant, convivial occasion, far from the madding philosophical crowd.
I send my sincere condolences to his widow and collaborator, Maj Tuomela.
Philosophy of communication was at the center of my interests from the beginning of my studies, so it was only a matter of time until I had to come across Raimo Tuomela.
I met Raimo first in the context of my chair at Saarbrücken in the early 90’ and from then on regularly at workshops and conferences, at Leipzig and Bielefeld.
First and foremost, we were friends and human beings, not just – or not only – academics. Raimo summarized his view on our relationship in his contribution to “GEORG’S ALBUM” (compiled for the 2019 Salzburg-Symposium): “I met Georg for the first time in Saarbrücken many years ago. Since then we have been friends.”
Communicative action essentially aims to be understood - and so the concept of understanding an action in general must first be clarified. Georg Henrik von Wright's idea of explicating the understanding of an action in terms of a practical inference that leads to the respective action as its conclusion - that was the idea I started from. And perhaps it was due to Georg Henrik's influence that I was invited to contribute my tentative reconstruction of this practical inference as a special kind of rational explanation to a Suhrkamp volume on Neue Versuche über Erklären und Verstehen (New Attempts at Explanation and Understanding, 1995), edited by K. O. Apel, Juha Manninen and Raimo Tuomela.
Georg Henrik replied to my paper, and our debate about the adequacy of my rational reconstruction of his early practical inference approach to understanding engaged us from the beginning of our friendship until his last days in June 2003. (My lecture for his 2016 Helsinki centennial on G. H. von Wright’s Understanding of Human Actions is an overview about this long debate.)
Whereas my debate with Georg Henrik von Wright centered around action-understanding in general, my discussions with Raimo started with my questioning his explication of the understanding of linguistic communications. As spelled out in the (revised version of my) contribution to the Tuomela-Workshop at the Leipzig Conference Conditio Humana (1996)), Kommunikatives Handeln bei Tuomela (Communicative Action in Tuomela’s Philosophy), our main differences were as follows: (i) Raimo starts with a non-reduceable concept of intention; (ii) for him – as for classical Speech Act Theory - communication is presupposing already common linguistic knowledge; and (iii), Raimo had no problems using the terminology of illocutionary vs. perlocutionary acts, in particular – all these points to be put into question by my former radical intentionalistic (Gricean) approach.
All these problems about communication are deeply connected with many aspects of the main field with which Raimo’s name will be connected forever: Collective Intentionality and Social Facts. But this is not the place to go into details of the corresponding long list of our open questions.
The character trait of Raimo I personally admired most was the connection between the highest degree of philosophical scholarship and his natural and totally unpretentious way of communicating.
The last years we, including Maj, met each other not so much at conferences but at the Munich central train station where we then took a café, while I had a stop-over while commuting between my native town Kempten near to the Alps and Salzburg where I continue to give courses after my retirement. My last mail exchange with Raimo was on the occasion of his last birthday on Oct 09, 2020; we were both wishing that we might see each other again next year (2021) at Munich or in my native town near to the Alps in the summertime.
Though as a consequence of my interests becoming more centered on Practical Ethics our discussions about the Social Basics got attenuated a bit, I never had the impression that this caused any change in our personal relationship. I always regarded Raimo and Maj to be part of the inner circle of my friends and vice versa.
I myself and I am sure all of our colleagues will miss our Collective Intentionality teacher and friend very much. I will always be happy about having had the chance to meet Raimo.
Raimo, thanks for all your contributions – both to our thinking and to our life. R.I.P.
I mourn for Raimo Tuomela. I met him for the first time in a conference in Helsinki in 1978. In 1979 he came to our alp-workshop where he ran each day several kilometres before breakfast. From this time on we were in contact. In 1994 he prepared his book 'The Importance of Us' which really got important. Also I got interested in social things. We started collaborating. He often came to Munich in the summer. In the last summer, in 2019, we still discussed about many things. We were friends, I will always remember him.
Raimo Tuomela played an enormous role over many years in the promotion and advancement of philosophical research on collective intentionality and social ontology. His early work helped motivate and set the stage for an extremely wide range of philosophical research on these issues, and his continuing work over these years has been a significant aspect of that ongoing research. He supported the work of many scholars in these areas as well as multiple workshops and meetings. He helped us think more deeply about, as he said, the importance of us. He will be missed very much.
I first got to know Raimo in the 1990’s. He organized a visit to the University of Helsinki that I made in northern Spring, 1992, and I recall a very warm welcome from him and his wife, Maj, in a rather cold stretch of weather. Later in the 1990’s, they spent a little time in Canberra, visiting the ANU, and I hope they found an equally warm welcome here: perhaps even a welcome as warm as I remember the weather on that occasion. It was mid southern Summer and I have an image of Raimo, dressed to the T and surrounded by students and colleagues in thongs and shorts, maintaining his cool on a mid 30’s (Celsius) day, as we walked in a group by the city lake. The heat of the day did as little to disturb his calm as the heat of argument.
Raimo’s work was absolutely foundational in the development of social ontology. He and Margaret Gilbert brought to prominence themes that are now central to the research of many philosophers all over the world. His work will be as important for many in future generations as it is for many of us today. Sad to think that they, unlike us, will not have any chance to know and appreciate the person.
I first met Raimo when he came to give a talk at the University of Florida in 2003 titled "We-intentions Revisited." I was familiar with his work, having been introduced to it at Berkeley in the late 1980s. But I had never met him before that. It was serendipitous. That talk got me thinking about the problem of the logical form of plural action sentences and plural attributions of intention. That turned into a series of papers and two books on collective action, shared intention, and institutional agency, and many excursions into neighboring fields. Raimo was a pioneer in the philosophical study of social action, a field shaper, someone who worked tirelessly promoting the field, and the moving force behind the International Social Ontology Society. Raimo was also a lifelong runner. The year after I first met him I saw him again at the Collective Intentionality IV conference at a monastery outside of Sienna in 2004, and we went on a long run together. He was 64 years old. I was twenty years younger. After 5k when we were heading back up the hill to the monastery, he suggested to me that as he had kept up with me and satisfied his honor, maybe we could slow down a bit up hill. He was a gem. Many well-known philosophers have a big ego but Raimo did not. He was a bit self-deprecating, and he disliked posturing and overly aggressive discussions, though he defended his own views with conviction and tenacity. He was kind and generous with his time. He was a friend. He lived a good life, and he will be missed by many people.
Raimo has left us a huge body of significant work. I doubt that anyone has contributed as much and as broadly to the theory of social action. I often find myself telling my students about his theory of we-intentions and referring them to one or another of his writings. He also contributed original work in general action theory. His contributions in research collaborations, mentoring of younger philosophers, and teaching of students were incalculable. His presence in international meetings on both sides of the Atlantic will be missed. His philosophical discussions leave an empty space that will not be filled. I will miss him both as friend and philosophical colleague. But his legacy and his positive influence in philosophy will continue into the long future.
Raimo Tuomela (1940-2020) was one of the luminaries of Finnish philosophy, a pioneer in the international study of collective intentionality and social ontology. My introduction to those fields was from what I thought was a different approach, but it turned out that perhaps it wasn't: it was hard to make points that Tuomela hadn't already made (or refuted) in one of his books or articles. Especially from 2007 onwards in Helsinki I got to take part in his research group's activities, less intensively again after moving back to middle Finland. I enjoyed the disciplined research and friendly atmosphere. One of the high points (pun intended) was a trip to the Alps from one of the conferences, and among the low points (again, pun intended) were the seminars in the windowless seminar rooms in the cellar of Metsätalo. Puns aside, those seminars (more often in his office) were the kind of academic life one should be able to lead: intense shared investigations of whatever topics that were on the table. It was nice to witness the growing international attention to Raimo's work in the past two decades, including the well-deserved standing as an honorary president of the international social ontology society. His writings are not easy reads, and his presentations were often like his texts in that respect; but there's a lot still to be learned from them that has gone with less attention but that will continue to be relevant.
As it happened, my very first academic contact with Raimo was as a young PhD student, editing a book of Finnish Philosophical Society, on theories of "Community". I had the ungrateful task of having to ask Raimo and Pekka Mäkelä to shorten their text considerably; which they did. It turned out that my last academic contact this year was to be on an edited collection, this time with Raimo as one of the editors. My text scratched a topic (ought-to-be norms) I especially regret not being able to discuss with him anymore.
I'm still a bit shaken by the very sad news from last weekend, while of course grateful for the learning experiences and shared activities over the years. Here's a festive seminar photo from five years ago, with his research group and colleagues, when Raimo turned 75. He will be sorely missed by friends, colleagues and scholars in the field.
At the first ENSO meeting in Konstanz, Germany.
I first met Raimo at Collective Intentionality VI in Berkeley in 2008. We had a good connection right away, but I only really got to know him a bit better at the first ENSO meeting a year later in Konstanz. One of the first things that struck me about him was something that was equally endearing and maddening. Even though he was by far the best-known philosopher at the meeting – in fact he was the only keynote, the only invited speaker even – and the whole thing was rather casual and improvised and he came meticulously prepared, he was still very nervous. He went off on tangents, then realized that he couldn’t get through his – already rather numerous – slides, started skipping some, then more, got flustered again, and only really became more relaxed in the Q&A, where he would give passionate responses, with bits of boyish humour occasionally thrown in. Only in the last years of his life did he seem more at ease in such formal settings, developing what always struck me as a truly philosophical attitude towards them.
Raimo was much more at home in smaller and more intimate groups, and it must have been because he was shy himself that he always took special care to make others feel welcome. He especially opened up when one could be out in nature or listen to music. Some of my fondest memories of time spent together with Raimo are of hikes in the Bay Area with his wife and frequent collaborator Maj and Paul Palutikof, and of going to concerts there when we overlapped as visitors at Berkeley. I especially remember his contagious enthusiasm for a rousing rendition the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra gave of Shostakovich’s 11th symphony.
A mix of shyness and passion is not unusual among philosophers. What made Raimo really stand out was his courage, his determination and his cooperative spirit. He had the courage to be a real pioneer for the topic of collective intentionality, being the first, together with Margaret Gilbert, to really tackle it in the tradition of analytic philosophy. And he did it with true determination, forever extending and honing his approach. But he also always did it in a cooperative spirit. He was not only a great theoretician of cooperation, he lived it. It was not for nothing that in a couple of papers I referred to the properties characterizing the mode of joint attention and action as the “RAIMO properties”.
One aspect of his cooperative nature was that he was very active in organizing things and a great force towards the institutionalization of the research tradition of collective intentionality. Without him, the history of the collective intentionality and ENSO conference series and of ISOS would certainly have been much different if they had even existed. And then of course there were the many works he co-edited and co-authored. He also helped many people, myself included, with their careers and supported them in various ways. But most of all it was his kindness and generosity of spirit, how he always put people at ease and had encouraging words for them.
One of the last times we met, after a talk of mine, he said to me out of the blue: “I think you are on the right track!” I often think back to this, especially in trying times. It always gives me a boost of confidence and the feeling of being encouraged, even obliged, to go further down some of the paths Raimo has paved. It will continue to do so, but from now on it will also always be tinged with the sadness that he is gone.
On a hike with Paul Palutikof, Maj Tuomela and myself.
Raimo Tuomela was an exceptional man. As an academic, he was a pioneer who worked tirelessly to advance social ontology and work in collective intentionality, inspiring so many others to follow in his footsteps. Despite his status as one of the most important academics in his field, he was friendly, approachable, and generous. I first met Raimo in September 2018. I was a fresh PhD student new to the field and feeling rather overwhelmed by it all. Raimo instantly made me feel comfortable, included, and valued. He had a way of making people feel at ease both within academic and social settings. My fondest memories of Raimo are from the latter. During one dinner, I remember recounting to him and Maj my experience of meeting Santa in Rovaniemi. I hesitated when saying “Rovaniemi”, being self-conscious about my accent. I’m sure Raimo detected this as he immediately complimented me on my pronunciation. My mum had a similar experience when picking both Raimo and Maj up from the airport. Raimo praised her driving, telling her that he very much enjoyed the journey. My mum now rebuts any criticism levelled against her driving skills by citing Professor Tuomela! These moments perfectly capture the kind, gentle, and familiar nature he had.
Though I only knew Raimo for a few years, he had a profound impact on me both academically and personally. I join a host of others who he has similarly affected in expressing my gratitude towards him. He will be greatly missed and warmly remembered.
Raimo Heikki Tuomela, Professor Emeritus in Practical Philosophy, University of Helsinki, passed away in Helsinki on November 22nd 2020, at the age of 80. He was born in Helsinki October 9th 1940, his father was from Karelia, his mother belonged to the Swedish speaking minority in Finland.
After his matricular examination from the Helsinki Lyceum 1959, Tuomela studied Psychology at the University of Helsinki. In 1966, having completed the degrees of Master and Licenciate in Psychology, he joined together with Risto Hilpinen and Juhani Pietarinen Jaakko Hintikka’s research group at the department of practical philosophy, where the foundations were laid for the internationally lauded Finnish School of Induction, studying inductive logic. In his dissertation in philosophy of science, The Application Process of a Theory (1968), Tuomela was among the first to apply Tarskian model theory to the interpretation of scientific theories. Tuomela defended another PhD, Auxiliary Concepts within First-Order Scientific Theories in 1969 at Stanford, where he had earlier visited as an ASLA-Fulbright scholar. His teachers included Jaakko Hintikka, Patrick Suppes and Joseph Sneed. In his work, he applied Hintikka’s logical theory of distributive normal forms in the examination of the definability of theoretical concepts and the methodological gains of their use. Tuomela published these results, together with his studies concerning the structure of scientific explanation, in his Theoretical Concepts (1973) and (with Ilkka Niiniluoto) in Theoretical Concepts and Hypothetico-Inductive Inference (1973). Influenced by Wilfrid Sellars and Hilary Putnam, Tuomela developed an original version of scientific realism in Science, Action, and Reality (1985). This is the view called «causal internal realism», according to which truth is an epistemic concept explicable in terms of the concept of explanation. On that view, ontological questions are to be solved by theories that provide the best scientific explanations, as «science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not» as Sellars’s Scientia Mensura -principle holds.
In 1968 The Faculty of Social Sciences founded a special professorship in the methodology of social science. Young Tuomela applied for it, as did Yrjö Ahmavaara, who was a well-known researcher in psychometrics and cybernetics. Tuomela was appointed in 1971, which was considered a significant move in the science policies in Finland. In 1977, the professorship was turned into the second professorship in practical philosophy at the University of Helsinki. Tuomela held this post for 37 years and retired in 2008. His students included Uskali Mäki and Matti Sintonen, who also later became professors. Tuomela was an Academy Professor in 1995-2000, leading a research group on social action. Matti Sintonen, Petri Ylikoski and Kaarlo Miller edited the volume Realism in Action (2003) in honour of his 60th birthday. Important co-authors included his second wife Maj Tuomela (former Bonnevier), who defended her dissertation in social psychology in 2006, on trust as a collective attitude.
As a professor, Tuomela edited the collections Yhteiskuntatieteiden eksakti metodologia (1975) and (with Ilkka Patoluoto) Yhteiskuntatieteiden filosofiset perusteet I-II (1976). In his Human Action and Its Explanation (1976), he applied scientific realism to psychology, defending a causal theory of action as an alternative to G. H. von Wright’s (non-causal) model of understanding intentionality. On the view Tuomela defended, mental states are real, causally efficacious dispositions, and human behaviour is to be explained with reference to “purposive causation”.
In his next large book, A Theory of Social Action (1984) he generalized explanations of individual behaviour to group action. This became his central topic of research, which he developed sharply in several systematic treatises: The Importance of Us (1995), Cooperation: A Philosophical Study (2000), The Philosophy of Social Practices: A Collective Acceptance View (2002), The Philosophy of Sociality: The Shared Point of View (2007) and Social Ontology: Collective Intentionality and Group Agents (2013). His trademarks as a researcher were analytically clear and precise definitions of the key concepts such as group belief, we-intention and social practice. He published with such top publishers as D. Reidel, Stanford University Press, Kluwer, Cambridge University Press, and Oxford University Press. These books established him as an eminent scholar in his field. His central standing is attested to by his choice in 2012 as the president – and later honorary president – of International Social Ontology Society, and as an editor in chief of the new book series Studies in the Philosophy of Sociality in 2013. In 2017 Springer also published Social Ontology and Collective Intentionality: Critical Essays on the Philosophy of Raimo Tuomela with His Responses.
As a defender of a scientific worldview, Tuomela was one of the founders of Skepsis ry, promoting critical thinking. Mostly he enjoyed his life as a researcher and did not take part in public discussions. Tuomela was probably better known internationally than in Finland. He was an invited speaker in many leading universities and international conferences. He received the prestigious Humboldt Research Award of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 1993. He maintained a steady contact to analytical philosophers in Germany (e.g. Wolfgang Balzer) as a permanent visiting professor at the University of Munich since 2005, where he spent two to three months annually. He also made regular visits to London and Berkeley. In 2019, Tuomela was granted a lifetime achievement award by the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters. In an interview by niin&näin, a popular philosophical magazine, Tuomela described himself as a shy lone wolf. As a person he was a paragon of conscientiousness and diligence, whose goal-orientedness was softened by his boyish humour among close friends. His hobbies included long distance running and classical music.
November 25th, 2020
(Written originally for Ajatus 77/2020, the journal of the Philosophical Society of Finland. Ilkka Niiniluoto is a Professor Emeritus in Theoretical Philosophy, who also served as a Rector and Chancellor of the University of Helsinki, and has earned the title of an Academician of Science.)
Translated by Arto Laitinen