IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Magazine - July 2018 - 51

Remembering Lotfi Zadeh (continued from page 50)
Zadeh advanced fuzzy logic, a logic that represents classes

computing in the early 1990s, beyond the relevance thereof,

with unsharp edges.

was something like "blowin' in the wind," in the words of

Prof. Zadeh was a huge fan of mathematics and somewhat

Bob Dylan. At that time, hybrid methodologies were already

skeptical about the humanities. He demonstrated a certain

starting to be seen as necessary tools for trying to reach

degree of disdain with philosophical works emphasizing

some suboptimal solutions to computational problems

the vagueness of natural language, such as Wittgenstein's

that could not be addressed by any of them separately.

Philosophical Investigations. He was also critical with Eleanor

Concerning computing with words and perceptions (CWP)

Rosh's and George Lakoff's approaches from cognitive

[S13], not only did he return to and expand on the original

science, as they did not use mathematical equations but

goals of fuzzy logic, but he touched on one of the main

vague notions such as categories or hedging [S4]. He

shortcomings of AI.

did not fully agree with approaches from philosophy, as

ET: Relating Prof. Zadeh's name with its new, more central

it addresses vagueness without introducing precision. In

ideas depends on who is trying to do so; it is the Quidquit

his view, and resorting to the previous metaphor, for him,

recipitur ad modus recipientis recipitur of Thomas of Aquinas.

philosophy seemed to be a kind of stuttering theory that

People grasp new concepts as their personal formation and

explains its subject while stuttering.

interests allow them to do so, both not always completely

In any case, he contributed to the conversation with a

coinciding with those of the introducers of these concepts;

paper [S12] to the philosophy journal Synthese in a special

once a liquid is in a bottle, it adopts the bottle's form. Anyone

volume devoted to the logic semantic of vagueness. In

who is captivated by the ideas of Prof. Zadeh will grasp them

the references section he quoted works from M. Black, W.V.

in the way that they are able to do so and in relation to the

Quine, K. Fine, and C.G. Hempel, but in an unspecific way

ongoing issues. Also, and at least at the very beginning, there

without correspondence to specific entries in the text. It

were many important scientists in the United States who

seems as if the philosophers inspired him with ideas, but

simply rejected these ideas, going as far as demonstrating

not to realize them. In turn, Prof. Zadeh was not warmly

their loathing for them; a situation that changes, diminishing

received in the arena of philosophy, where vagueness

over time, owing to the technological successes attained by

prevails over fuzziness and subjectivity overcomes objectivity.

some of them and, mainly, those concerning fuzzy control

Philosophy pursues complexity, and, by analyzing a problem,

reached after the pioneering work of Abe Mamdani in

philosophers expect to uncover certain other problems

the United Kingdom [S8] and the industrial success in

instead of solving the one that they are attempting to

home appliances and more relevant technological

address, an attitude that is the complete antithesis of that of

achievements made by some important Japanese in-

an engineer.

dustries. Notwithstanding, and from very early, in Japan and

As an engineer, Prof. Zadeh was a pragmatic man

Europe, and even in the old Soviet Union, Prof. Zadeh's new

seeking useful models to manage problems that admit

ideas were received with notable interest and without the

solutions by precisiating the meaning of the words used to

intellectual preemptions voiced against them by certain

enunciate them. He provided inference rules for gathering

American scientists. In this regard, and far from the typical

plausible conclusions based on vague premises. Although

struggles between groups of scientists for capturing research

the term fuzzy logic is not always welcome in mathematics

funds from official agencies, it should not to be forgotten

or philosophy, it has become a widely used paradigm

that in the mid-1970s, the space race was at full throttle,

and accepted in the fields of cognitive science and AI.

confronting the United States and the old Soviet Union, and

Qualified by some philosophers as a kind of techno-logic

for which precision and precise computations were very

(i.e., a logic just for technology) rather than a type of

important; the quest for not only studying imprecision but

logic, it has been worthy of that denomination with diverse,

benefiting from it collided with the prevailing scientific interest

bright, and useful applications.

in crisp methods.

On What Will Remain Associated with Zadeh's Name

were first and, more or less, simultaneously but independently

AS: Surely, the best homage to the intellectual legacy of Prof.

grasped in the areas of philosophy, mathematics, and

Zadeh would be a critical approach to what he published.

statistics. The first as a consequence of the interest in

However, his passing away is too recent to attempt to embark

linguistic vagueness; the second through the possibility of

on such an intellectual task wherein, in any case, we should

extending the mathematical representation of the imprecise

take into account the moment in which he introduced the

linguistic statements that Boolean algebra, classical set

AS: In the particular case of Spain, for instance, these ideas

new ideas. For instance, if the concept of fuzzy sets was
received as a genuine intellectual shock in 1965, that of soft

(continued on page 52)

Ju ly 2018

IEEE SyStEmS, man, & CybErnEtICS magazInE

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