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Herbert Fingarette

1921 - 2018
Herbert Fingarette Obituary
Herbert Fingarette

January 20, 1921 - November 2, 2018

Professor Herbert Fingarette, an eminent American philosopher who wrote influential and often controversial books on a remarkably wide range of subjects, died on November 2 in Berkeley, California, at the age of 97. The cause of death was progressive heart failure.

Dr. Fingarette received his PhD from UCLA in 1949. He began his career in the Philosophy Department at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 1948 and remained there until he retired in 1988. He was named Faculty Research Lecturer at UCSB in 1977 and won that campus' Distinguished Teaching Award in 1985. He was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, the Walter Meyer Law Research Institute, the National Endowment of Humanities, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Battelle Research Center, the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, and the Addiction Research Center. In 1984 he was the first person to give the national Phi Beta Kappa Romanell Lectures in Philosophy.

Professor Fingarette's initial book, The Self in Transformation (1963) was a ground breaking study of the use of Freudian theories in the philosophical context. Professor Fingarette then began to focus on the area of responsibility, attacking it from philosophical angles (On Responsibility, 1967; Self-Deception, 1969; Mapping Responsibility 2004) and then moving into the legal arena, with his work The Meaning of Criminal Insanity (1972). His article "The Perils of Powell: In Search of a Factual Foundation for the Disease Concept of Alcoholism", published in the Harvard Law Review (1970) was cited in the United States Supreme Court majority opinion in Traynor v. Turnage, 485 U.S. 535 (1988).

Professor Fingarette co-authored a book with his daughter, Ann Fingarette Hasse, Mental Disabilities and Criminal Responsibility (1979), before writing his highly controversial book Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease (1988). However, it is perhaps in the area of Chinese philosophy that Fingarette wrote his most influential book: Confucius – The Secular as Sacred (1972); it has become required reading for Western scholars of Confucius' work. His numerous articles engaged topics as diverse as "Eros and Utopia", "Human Nature, Human Ordeals" and "The Meaning of the Law in the Book of Job".

Professor Fingarette moved from Santa Barbara to Berkeley in 2007 to be near his family. He was surrounded by his family during the last days of his life. His dear wife of 66 years, Leslie, predeceased him in 2011. He is survived by his daughter Ann, her husband Erich Gruen and his two beloved grandsons, Andrew Hasse and John Hasse. There will be a memorial in December.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Nov. 5 to Nov. 7, 2018
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