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In Memoriam - Aldo Antonelli


Aldo Antonelli and motorcyleOur colleague, friend and collaborator, Aldo Antonelli, passed away suddenly on Sunday, October 11, 2015 while bicycling in Sacramento, California. He is survived by his partner, Elaine Landry, brother David, sons Federico and Riccardo, and their mother Giovanna Fogli. 

Aldo Antonelli was a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Davis. An expert in pure and applied logic, his research largely focused on issues in defeasible reasoning and non-monotonic logic. His more recent work in philosophy of logic was concerned with  applications of generalized quantifier theory and abstraction principles to the foundations of arithmetic in the more general context of Fregean foundations, as well as making contributions to Frege scholarship. 

Together with his partner and colleague, philosopher of mathematics Elaine Landry, Antonelli established philosophy of logic and mathematics as a focal point of scholarship in the Davis department. Antonelli was a member of the Association for Symbolic Logic, the American Philosophical Association, the Philosophy of Mathematics Association, and the Society for Exact Philosophy. He had served as coordinating editor of the Journal of Philosophical Logic and the Review of Symbolic Logic. He taught at Pittsburgh, Yale, Stanford and Michigan State, before joining the University of California, first at Irvine in 1998, and then moving to UC Davis in 2008.

Aldo’s self-description captures his spirit, focus, and sense of humor best:

I grew up in Torino, Italy, where I received my undergraduate education. After a brief stint in corporate R&D, I ended up in Pittsburgh, pursuing a graduate degree at Pitt. I taught here and there around the country for a few years before obtaining my first tenure track job. I then spent ten years at UC Irvine, including two years while on assignment abroad, before coming to Davis. My Erdös number is 4 (Paul Erdös to Joel Spencer to Nuel Belnap to Rich Thomason).

Contributions in Aldo’s memory may be made to a fund in support of graduate students working in logic and philosophy of logic. Please write checks to: UC Davis Foundation, marked “Aldo” and mail to: Chair, Department of Philosophy, One Shields Avenue, Davis CA 95616 USA. You may donate via credit card directly through an Antonelli Memorial Fund Giving page at the UC Davis website.


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Matt Leonard
Matt Leonard says:
Oct 14, 2015 09:38 AM

I'm almost certain I've taken more classes from Aldo than anyone else. He was such a wonderful teacher and such a great person.

Scotty reminded me of one of Aldo's favorite jokes:

THEOREM: Every government is unjust.

PROOF: Let G be an arbitrary government. Since G is arbitrary, it is certainly unjust. Hence, by universal generalization, every government is unjust. QED

Mandy Kamangar
Mandy Kamangar says:
Oct 14, 2015 11:32 AM

Aldo never hesitated to offer help to grads to go forward and get better in their studies, and did so with a great sense of humor.

Emily Earlenbaugh
Emily Earlenbaugh says:
Oct 14, 2015 01:45 PM

Aldo was an incredible person. I remember taking logic from him and he would always get to the end of a line of logic and say "and then this much is obvious" and write the conclusion. It didn't seem obvious to me, but I appreciated the fact that his mind was so logical that the logical conclusions did seem obvious. Aldo always stood up for what was reasonable, which is sadly not the case for all the philosophers i've known in my life. I felt better having him around because I felt like I could trust his judgements wouldn't be based on politics or personal preferences. To me, that made the philosophy department seem safer and more stable. He made a huge difference to my time at UC Davis and I'm sorry more students won't be able to experience that. He will be greatly missed.

Alyssa Ney
Alyssa Ney says:
Oct 14, 2015 03:00 PM

I'm so grateful to Aldo and Elaine for their warmth and generosity in welcoming me and the other new faculty in the department with home-cooked meals and great conversation. I am going to miss the opportunity to rally for Bernie with Aldo and all of the many things I could have learned from him about logic, philosophy, and just how to be such a cool guy.

Mariah K. Watson
Mariah K. Watson says:
Oct 14, 2015 03:01 PM

A true legend who changed my life by challenging me to be better and follow my passions. I owe my love of philosophy to his guidance and support.

It was truly an honor to have been taught by him and love logic right along side him.

Mirna C
Mirna C says:
Oct 14, 2015 04:53 PM

Professor Antonelli was such an amazing person.He was always great at making logic fun and inspiring his students and peers. He believed in and mentored me, and he was always available to his students. He was amazing at his art, and generously shared his passion with others. He inspired me to pursue logic even though it had its bang your head on the wall kind of moments. He was such a gentle and patient person, which made learning and loving such a challenging field possible. He left behind a legacy of great philosophers that were fortunate to be taught by such an amazing mind. My life was impacted deeply and meaningfully and I will miss him and cherish my time as his student.

Daniela Coronado
Daniela Coronado says:
Oct 14, 2015 05:27 PM

I had the great opportunity of taking his class last year. I can honestly say that he was a great professor that will always be remembered.

Torrance Fung
Torrance Fung says:
Oct 14, 2015 05:48 PM

One of the nicest guys on the UC Davis campus. I took his intermediate logic course as an undergrad. He let me change the grading option from letter grading to pass-no-pass, just two days before the final. (Such a chill guy!) This prevented any sub-par grade from hurting me in my applications to graduate school later on. It was the only time I took a philosophy course pass-no-pass and is a small testament to his constant generosity and easygoing attitude as a teacher.

I also remember his discovering my sleeping habits, which involve sleeping late and waking late. He said I reminded him of him in this respect!

Brian Moen
Brian Moen says:
Oct 15, 2015 09:28 AM

Sad to hear. I hope for the best for everyone in the department in dealing with the loss of Aldo.

I didn't know him well, but I absolutely loved his game theory course. I don't do math oriented philosophy, but I found his lectures to be super engaging. Thus I was inspired to put more work into the material in that course than I did even in courses in my concentration.

He seemed like a really kind guy (and not just for a philosopher).

Kristen Greer
Kristen Greer says:
Oct 15, 2015 12:37 PM

I audited a class on modal logic from Prof. Antonelli early on in my graduate career at UCD, and in that brief time I could see very clearly what a brilliant logician (and excellent teacher) Prof. Antonelli was. Later on, I was honored (and incredibly intimidated!) when he came to my dissertation defense. He asked me some really great questions which I always hoped to follow up with him on. He will truly be missed, by all who knew him. UCD Philosophy holds a special place in my heart, and I am thinking about all of you during this difficult time.
Kristen Greer (UCD Linguistics 2014)

Mark Migotti
Mark Migotti says:
Oct 15, 2015 01:24 PM

Aldo was smart, kind, and full of life. Apart from learning much from him about philosophy and food, he was generous enough to take some time to go over a piece of writing by his fellow Torinese Primo Levi in the Italian with me while he was visiting Calgary. It's appalling to have lost him so suddenly and unexpectedly. The arbitary government joke above is lovely, and very characteristic of Aldo.

Paul Landry
Paul Landry says:
Oct 15, 2015 02:43 PM

My name is Paul; Elaine Landry`s brother. Aldo was a very important member of our family. He was our son-in-law, our brother-in-law, our uncle and our friend, and we loved him very much! The children will miss placing flowers in his hair and tracking Santa on his app at Christmas. We loved him most of all for loving our beloved Elaine. Love George, Ruby, Paul, Selene, Ella, Abigail, Michael, Mary, Lauren, Catherine and Woody.

Elisabeth Ritz
Elisabeth Ritz says:
Oct 15, 2015 05:15 PM

I can't believe Aldo is gone. He was a very special friend. Elaine, you have my sincere sympathy.

Natasha says:
Oct 15, 2015 07:43 PM

I first met him when I took his rationality course. I didn’t know who he was at the time but as soon as he started talking I definitely got the sense he was a force. I’ve got a lot of fond memories of him (especially at talks when he’d come in really cool with his motorcycle jacket and helmet, then suddenly and visibly get agitated). He was one of those guys that didn’t waste time, didn’t tolerate intellectual bs, but he was really kind about it. He made sure you knew what you did wrong but he still made you feel like you could do it, which meant a lot coming from him. I remember last I saw him (I believe at the BBQ during DEX), he was enthusiastic about my interest in learning some more advanced logic on my own while I was out of school and he offered to email me texts on meta and modal logic once I was ready. He was one of those intellectual forces I kind of feared but also grew to really love because of how patient, kind, and enthusiastic he was about my intellectual growth even if I was just an undergrad (and even if he could be comically terse about it smile emoticon ). I know others felt the same. My heart really goes out everyone.

Juliette Kennedy
Juliette Kennedy says:
Oct 16, 2015 01:11 AM

I first met Aldo in 1996. I knew him mainly through his wonderful work, but experiencing his kindness, his warm presence, and his humor, on the occasions when we did meet, always left me with a very good feeling. I saw him last August in Helsinki when we spoke of getting together in 2016, the 3 of us, with Elaine. How sad I am now; but I know Elaine will carry the flame at Davis beautifully, of logic and philosophy of mathematics. My heart goes out to Elaine and the children, and the rest of the family.

Christine Mack
Christine Mack says:
Oct 17, 2015 08:03 PM

We remember Aldo with his visits to Montreal with my best friend Elaine. The two had a special connection that was felt almost instantaniously, akin to kindred souls. The last diner I remember having together was in our backyard during the summer and his laid back style, warmth, kindness, easy laughter and incredible love that he had for Elaine was heartwarming. We are so saddened by this tragic loss, there are no words to describe this terrible loss. Life was taken from him much too early. To my dearest Elaine, may the memorable years and special moments you have shared with him help to somehow soften your sorrow. May you find some level of peace and solace in knowing that his incredible and special spirit will continue to live on in your heart and soul. Our prayers and thoughts are with you. We love you so much and wish we can wrap our arms around you right now. Christine, Mark and Alexander

Jeff Barrett
Jeff Barrett says:
Oct 18, 2015 08:44 AM

Aldo liked to say “Life’s too short not to X” where X was something that he thought we should be doing. When he wanted me to cycle the fifty miles to Long Beach and back with him when he knew perfectly well that the farthest that I had ever ridden was about twenty miles, he said “Life’s too short not to go on long rides.” When he showed up at my house the next day to show me the picture of a handmade Italian bike that he thought I needed so that I would complain less on long rides, he said “Life’s too short not not to have a nice bike.” And when I told him that I really was worried about falling off the back of his scooter as he showed me some of his favorite places in Rome, he said “Hold on like this. Life’s too short not to go fast.”

I found the bike that Aldo had recommended and bought it used fifteen years later. By then I knew that he was right about long rides and nice bikes. And, of course, I had always known that he was right that fast is better than slow.

Without having to say it, Aldo always reminded me that life’s too short not to spend it in the company of good friends. Everyone who had the company of Aldo was fortunate indeed.

Raffaella Zanuttini
Raffaella Zanuttini says:
Oct 18, 2015 07:28 PM

I met Aldo at the University of Turin, in the early 80's, when we were both undergraduate students there. We shared a wonderful advisor, Diego Marconi, and a wonderful set of friends - Giovanna, Dario, Morena, Giancarlo, Marilena,e Riccardo. It's heartwarming to see that the qualities that we appreciated in him then, and throughout the years, are the same qualities that also touched everyone else he met later in life: his warmth, his smile and laughter, his gentleness and kindness, his bright mind, his great desire to enjoy what life can offer have touched all of us and will remain within us as a wonderful memory forever.

Victoria Turney
Victoria Turney says:
Oct 19, 2015 10:34 AM

Professor Antonelli had a great energy about him. He was always so friendly and passionate about teaching others. He had that kind of wit that made you want to talk and laugh with him. Always lively, always energetic, always caring. He is missed dearly.

Bernard Molyneux
Bernard Molyneux says:
Oct 19, 2015 04:10 PM

Aldo was not just my colleague, but my friend. I will miss him greatly. I will miss his cooking, his perverse taste for the world's grossest cuisine, and most of all his sense of humor. He frequently proved that the intersection of funny quips and geeky logic jokes was nonempty. One of my earliest experiences was when he taught a seminar on the theory of computation shortly after arriving at Davis. Since the class was so formal, we would show up in formal attire, waistcoats and ties, etc. I couldn't read Aldo's symbols and so I gave up my 15 year embargo on getting glasses (a victory Aldo delighted in). One day, myself and two grad students met up to prepare for Aldo's seminar. We spent about 5 hours on one particular proof before agreeing that it was obvious. For that brief moment, we all felt like Aldo.

Teri Merrick
Teri Merrick says:
Oct 20, 2015 09:25 AM

I met Aldo while working on my dissertation at UCI. I remember telling him that I wasn't convinced my thesis was true, but thought it was interesting and plausible. I also remember his response: 'Truth is over-rated; interesting plausibility is much better' I can well imagine how much his current students will miss him, not to mention Elaine and the rest of his family and friends. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Huaping Lu-Adler
Huaping Lu-Adler says:
Oct 20, 2015 01:11 PM

I was a TA once for Aldo's symbolic logic class at Davis. I can still picture him doing proofs on the blackboard. I often quote his answer to students' query about whether he would apply curve in grading: 'If everyone gets A, then everyone gets A. If everyone gets F, then everyone gets F. Why should I change that?' I have adopted that line as my reason for why I never curve. In the future, I shall add 'in memory of Aldo'. I will forever remember him as a person with perfect combination of warmth, gentleness, and clear principles.

Thai Roberts
Thai Roberts says:
Oct 23, 2015 05:15 PM

Aldo Antonelli was responsible for both the most challenging and rewarding class I have ever taken, and for that gift of that experience I will never forget him. He made the intricacies of proof theory more than dry talk with reference to a chalk board, he made one of the most abstract of subjects come to life through the cadence of his speech and the celerity of his responses. He challenged us to rise to the occasion, to embrace the study of logic in all its strange simple complexity. We did not know each other, me being a shy undergraduate and with him everything I was not, I could never find the courage to approach him. However, on appearances alone I knew I was in the presence of rare intelligence, the kind few ever get to see, much less learn from. His style of dress was tasteful, his demeanor light, and his mind was obviously quite sharp. In reading the some of the comments above, I am warmed to know my impression was not in error; that he was every bit as wonderful as he seemed. We are left a little darker for the absence of his brightness. My favorite quote of his, as related the first day of PHI113: "It is not obvious what is obvious, that's why we have to prove it!"

Adam Sennet
Adam Sennet says:
Oct 25, 2015 10:45 AM

Watching the Leafs play the Habs is exciting but few viewers have ever been as excited as Aldo when seeing a player with an Italian name (probably Gianta). I suspect that never again will I hear cheers of 'paisan' around me when I watch hockey. I still owe a now un-repayable debt of watching soccer with my friend and colleague. A low point in our relationship was when I pretended to be a Juventus fan.

Aldo used to text me as though it was an emergency and show up at my place randomly when there was something he was excited about (in particular, he one day showed up with a motorcycle and offered to do any errand for me that involved driving). We spent time together biking the trail to Folsom and we had plans to make loimulohi. We read some of each other's papers on Quine and I looked forward to drinking grappa and espresso with him after dinner. I'm not sure what I'll miss most amongst these and other parts of our friendship but I'll certain miss them all.

Aldo was a kind, patient man and a caring lovable friend. But he was a very human human --- he could get very impatient and he did not suffer fools well. He had a mischievous, sometime earthy sense of humour that could take a larger than intended bite out of its target. But this made him all the more lovable, quirky and just unpredictable enough to keep you on your toes and fascinated by him. The best evidence I have that I'm not a total fool is that he suffered me very well. I miss him.

Ty says:
Oct 26, 2015 10:30 PM

Aldo gave his philosophy students a glimpse of what real work in mathematical logic looks like. Many of us have believed, at some time or another, that we have a facility for technical work. But I believe that comparatively few of us fully appreciate what it means to really be a logician. (I do not think that I do.) Aldo was a logician and a philosopher to boot! I am grateful to have had his guidance, and I miss him.

Charles Lang
Charles Lang says:
Nov 02, 2015 12:59 PM

Adam, hilarious!!

I was a student for a logic class from Aldo and learned LaTeX for the final paper -- for just that one class -- and it gave me a feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment.

Aldo knew I wasn't planning to be a logician, but he also knew I did more for the class than the bare minimum; I was and am happy about showing him I could do his kind of thinking when necessary.

I'm glad he got a chance to 'go fast' in his years (Jeff Barrett).

May he R.I.P.

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