Herbert Fingarette

Professor Emeritus


Remembering Herbert Fingarette, who joined the faculty of the UCSB Department of Philosophy in 1948. Below is an obituary written by Professor Fingarette's daughter Ann and her husband Erich. 

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.