In Memoriam : Dr. Robert C. Pinto

“Are you ready to have fun?” That’s how Bob started off his undergraduate epistemology course. He went on to say, “I’m Dr. Robert Pinto, but all of you can call me Uncle Bobby.” Well, we didn’t want to let him down, so some of us persisted in calling him “Uncle Bobby” right through to the end of the course.

The idea that philosophy – and intellectual work and education more generally – could be fun ought not to be confused with the idea that there are no standards or expectations. Bob did not award many As. Those who received high grades were put through their paces to earn them. He set the bar high for his students, and even higher for himself. His sharp, analytical mind and dedication to students led to detailed and voluminous commentary on student essays, but all of this unfolded in a way that kept students coming back for more. He was frequently described as holding court with students during office hours. It was no different at academic conferences. When he delivered a paper, the room was full. People knew it was worth coming to hear Bob speak. When he was in the audience and raised his hand to ask a question, the presenter had better be paying attention, because the question would be insightful and force a deep discussion of the topic at hand. Once again, this would be done in a way that would keep people coming back. Scholars didn’t resent Bob’s questions; they would ask him to lunch or dinner. They wanted more. 

We all wish we could have more of Bob. He started teaching here in 1963 and retired in 1999. Whether it was his contributions to teaching, to research, to the faculty association, to senate, or to any number of other university activities, Bob’s many and varied contributions added much to the University of Windsor. In scholarly circles, he is best known for his work in Informal Logic and Argumentation Studies. He was one of the founding fellows of the Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation, and Rhetoric (CRRAR). Bob gave us all quite a lot. But when someone knows how to ask penetrating questions, knows how to focus discussion on issues of significance, knows how to challenge us to think with greater depth and rigour, and knows how to do all of that with an endearing smile, it’s difficult not to want more.

Dr. Robert Pinto passed away on the evening of September 3, 2019. We remember him well and are grateful for his efforts on behalf of the Philosophy Department, CRRAR, the University of Windsor, and the broader academic community.

Whether you interacted with Bob as a student or as a scholar – I had the privilege of doing both – he never made it easy on you, but he always made it enjoyable.

Thanks for not making it easy, Bob.  And thanks for making it fun.

Marcello Guarini, Ph.D.
Dean, Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Robert Pinto

 

Bob was Department Head when I was hired (on a Limited Term Contract) in 1998.   Immediately upon my arrival in Windsor he suggested that I take over the (at the time, dormant) Philosophy Club.  Looking for ways to ingratiate myself and ensure that my time in Windsor lasted more than the 12 moth term of that first contract, I agreed.   It gave me an opportunity to get to know the philosophy students and reach others not in the program but interested in philosophy.   Working in that informal setting (upstairs, over beer, at the dearly missed Grad House) helped me develop as a teacher of philosophy.  It taught me to listen, to let conversations evolve, and to trust students with their own learning.

Even though Bob retired only a year after I arrived, he became a valued mentor and friend.  He was a regular attendee of Dry Run talks and Visiting Speakers’ Series events.  He had a knack for appearing disinterested (or asleep!) and then asking the most incisive questions.  He read voraciously and could converse about problems from across the philosophical spectrum.  I learned much from him even though our research areas differed.  

We would have lunch once a month or so for a few years after his retirement.  He never failed to be a willing philosophical sparring partner and I never left lunch less than enlightened on some problem or other.  Bob was a kindred philosophical spirit:  endlessly curious, always trying to learn, supportive but critical of everyone else’s endeavours; a trouble-making, good humoured bon vivant.
My career could have never got off

the ground, or it could have ended after 1998.  It did not, and whatever small successes I have had I owe to the supportive environment in which I have worked at Windsor.  I owe that initial opportunity to Bob.  

Jeff Noonan
Professor, Department of Philosophy                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Robert Pinto

 

Dr. Bob Pinto was one of my most inspiring professors and mentors, whose scholarly breadth and dedication to teaching, learning, and living a good life always came through, whether in a formal class or in more casual conversations.  He bears some notable responsibility for my passion for insightful, careful arguments, an affliction that has kept me awake many nights, sometimes happily and sometimes tortuously, as philosophers know.  

Bob's obituary mentions his dedication to argumentation and informal logic.  He and several of his U of W colleagues put this area of study on the map in a big way for us, and this was so needed and continues to be.  

When I first had Pinto as a prof, though, he taught me Existentialism and Phenomenology.  It was (without hyperbole, here) mind-blowing; he had a way of making it not only understandable but so engaging!  In one of our first lectures, he told a story of being in New York City, living slim, perhaps doing poetry, when he passed a bookstore window featuring the first English translation of Sein und Zeit, Being and Time (Heidegger). With characteristic dynamic gestures, he explained how he raced back to his apartment, grabbed his few dollars from under his mattress, and raced back to the bookstore.  I think he said, then, that his next few weeks (months?) were spent ensconced in this work.  He probably should have been eating more and having some outside contact, but such was his way, I gather.  No apologies for living with passion!  This sticks with me.  

I recall a number of stories that I hold dear, along with memories of Pinto's exceptionally fun and kind manner.  If it was an interesting philosophical work or presentation or if it was an engaging personal exchange, Bob was present and active.  I'm very glad to have known him in the ways I did.

Jill Gatfield, Philosophy
Faculty of Humanities and Social Science
Athabasca University

 

Robert Pinto

Professor Pinto was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut and, even having won a prestigious scholarship to Wesleyan College, in 1954 he enrolled in the English & Philosophy programme at St. Michael’s, the Catholic college of the University of Toronto’s collegial federation. St. Michael’s was the place of choice for many Canadian Catholics but it was an especially prized destination for American Catholics. It owed its appeal to Catholicism, of course, but also to the College’s affiliation with the world famous Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies, its next-door neighbour. Many of St. Mike’s philosophy undergrads were there to acquire a degree in Catholic philosophy, in the manner of Étienne Gilson or Jacques Maritain. This appears not to have been Bob Pinto’s reason for choosing St. Mike’s. There is no trace in his writings of a particularly religious orientation. As it happens, Bob and I were U of T contemporaries, fellow Torontonians. In that same year of 1954, I arrived at Toronto’s University College to read for the Philosophy & History degree. Bob graduated in 1958 from St. Mike’s, and I did the same at UC. Bob stayed on for an MA degree which he completed in 1959. I did that too. Bob’s MA thesis was on primary substance in the central books of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Mine was on the logic of perceptual relativity. In our five years of residency in the University of Toronto, there was not one day on which the co-habitation was made known to us. Toronto was a comparatively large university even then, enrolling about 10,000 students. But Bob’s and my alienation is explained by the fragmentations effected by the college system inherited from Oxford and Cambridge. Although we were in the same degree programme, we never took a class together or sat a final exam in the same place.
 
I first met Bob in Toronto some years later in the academic year 1970-1971 or perhaps the first half of the following one. He introduced himself in the 10th floor common room of the University’s philosophy department. Bob had been teaching philosophy at Assumption College in Windsor, and he had returned to Toronto to complete his doctoral degree. Bob began his teaching life in the year that Assumption became a federated college in the new public university that would be The University of Windsor. Bob completed his degree two years later, after successfully defending Sensory Experience and Ultimate Evidence to a committee of eight, one of whose external examiners was Fred Dretske, and whose Chairman was Bob’s supervisor J. T. Stevenson. One of the other examiners was Fred Wilson. I am bound to say that any PhD dissertation on a subject as important as this that passed muster with the likes of Stevenson, Wilson and Dretske could only be the work of a very able and tough-minded philosopher. The Pinto I met in the 10th floor lounge was an epistemologist poised for lift-off. He remained an epistemologist all his working life. Meanwhile, in 1959 I was off to Ann Arbor to do a Michigan degree on philosophical problems stirred by modal logic, where one of my teachers was C. H. Langford, co-author with C. I. Lewis of the classic work, Symbolic Logic (1932). Three years later, having just missed Tony Blair’s arrival in Ann Arbor, I was back in Toronto for my first full time academic appointment, just slightly before Bob would do the same in Windsor. I will note in passing that Ann Arbor, USA lies about fifty-five miles to the southwest of Windsor, Canada.
 
Everyone who knew Bob or saw him speak at conferences would see at once his energy, his wit, and his zest for it all. Many of this journal’s readers would have known him as about the most delightful of colleagues to have coffee with, if exuberance were one’s style. Bob’s social manner is prefigured in how he taught his classes. He would introduce himself as Dr. Robert C. Pinto, “but it’s best that you call me Dr. Bobby, and hold on fast for the ride of your life!” Any teacher of undergraduates knows the high risk of carrying on this way, indeed the foolishness of it. But Dr. Bobby knew better. While he had his students in stiches of laughter, he was holding them to tough philosophical standards of the kind that an exacting philosopher would aspire to in his own work. There is only one test of a teacher’s effectiveness. It would repay the notice of one of Dr. Bobby’s most significant people, who is presently Windsor’s Dean of Arts. If twenty years after they left his classrooms a teacher’s former students remember what he had actually taught them, he qualifies as a first-class teacher. In 1963, I received a request from the new chairman of Toronto’s philosophy department, which had been sent to all five-year alumni of the 1958 class in Honours Philosophy. Would I list the teachers whom I now consider to have mattered most to me these five years later? Had I been asked this question at graduation, I would have cited the pair whose lectures and manner I had most enjoyed. Five years later, my two top picks were teachers of little classroom appeal, and at the bottom were the pair of would-be choice at graduation. The difference lay entirely in this. All my life, then and now, much of what I know of the Nichomachean Ethics and the Critique of Pure Reason I have retained from what I learned as an undergraduate. Dr. Bobby would have topped my list at graduation and would have done the same five years after. If, contrary to fact, had Bob’s own students only remembered Dr. Bobby as the funniest man in Canadian logic, the verdict would have been different. In truth, his pupils have retained his instruction over the years and decades. Dr. Bobby had it both ways. He was concurrently a master teacher and Canada’s funniest logician. Our own first meeting was a bit like that too – both funny and philosophically engaging. In all, I doubt that we convoked more than three times. Our chats weren’t planned. We just chanced upon one another. 
 
If we are to take proper measure of our late friend and colleague, we must acknowledge that in complex ways, Bob Pinto was a Character, a Jester with the skill and wit to be one. Apart from his students who weren’t fooled by it, the Character sometimes masked the man within, the intently serious and intellectually fastidious scholar. Bob and circumstance alike conspired to bring it about that when one came upon him, one often saw the Character first, and sometimes missed seeing the scholar. In our second and third go-around in Toronto, much of the Character was gone and the philosopher was forefront. The fledgling epistemologist made three scholarly points that have remained with me these fifty or so years, mainly because they are important and mainly true, and also a testament to Bob’s mastery of philosophical communication.
 
The first was that, in nearly every way that counts, logic is the wrong discipline for the study of argument and inference. It is best approached, he said, as a project for epistemology. The second was that the epistemology of argument and inference should join forces with researchers who study the pragmatic dimension of natural language, and take seriously the speech-act character of argument-making. “Yes indeed”, I said, “but this isn’t going to work for inference. Inference is not a speech-act, certainly nothing close to inherently so.” Bob wasn’t so sure and we agreed to move on. I should note that at this same time, my then student Douglas Walton, another Toronto PhD, was writing a dissertation on the logic of action sentences. I doubt that Doug and Bob would have met then. Doug spent most of his hanging-about time at Massey College where he was a junior fellow. Still, the pragmatics resemblance is unmissable. Doug is now the Distinguished Research Fellow in the Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric (CRRAR) at the University where he has enjoyed a long acquaintance with his fellow Toronto alumnus and contemporary. 
 
The third Pinto insight was that while argument is an intrinsically dialectical enterprise, it is so, type-by-type and content-to-context, in varying senses of the word. By senses of “dialectic”, Bob meant what Aristotle himself meant. Some arguments therefore would proceed interrogatively, but not all. Some arguments would be waged by experts. Some arguments would be about matters of expert opinion, but not all. Some arguments would be attack-arguments, others would be defend-arguments, and many would be neither. And some would pertain to matters widely believed, and others would be concerned with matters not yet believed.  The Aristotelian references were beyond me at the time, and it would be years before Hans Hansen put me in possession of them. 
 
Notwithstanding Bob’s early pragmatic-dialectical disposition a pragma-dialectician avant la lettre  I can’t remember whether either he or I had read Charles Hamblin’s Fallacies which had appeared in 1970. The book would be part of my first intro logic course at UVic in 1971; so it stands to reason that there might have been some joint notice of it in Toronto,  particularly chapter 8. Doug Walton’s contact with Fallacies appears to have been made at the University of Winnipeg to which he had repaired shortly after my move to Victoria. Doug’s and my decision to take up the book’s challenge was arrived at en route to an APA meeting in 1972.
 
Before we leave Bob’s intellectual origins at the University of Toronto, I’ll pause briefly to consider the ambiguous kind of place it was in the 1960s, especially in relation to the humanities. In our undergraduate days, Toronto was one of the most recognized centres for the historical investigation of philosophy in a department of a size outnumbered only by Oxford. Philosophical analysis had made its modest way into the curriculum, but the Geist of the place was still historical. Perhaps more importantly, the University had retained its role as the central station of its scholars’ intellectual life, structured horizontally, as one might say. Department members would routinely talk to one another, of course, but also interact regularly with others across the lines of the University’s disciplines. This framed the idea of scholarly fulfilment. In significant part, one’s scholarly reputation and standing would be a function of one’s intellectual influence within. Attending upon this idea was the conviction that publication in places external to the University should be reserved for contributions of such value as to make their way into the internally-linked collegia of universities elsewhere. The very idea of a paper in a good journal every two years and a solid monograph every five or seven was considered the certain suffocation of quality control. 
 
By the time of Bob’s return from Toronto to Windsor, the University of Toronto had largely abandoned its horizontal intellectual organization in favour of a uni-disciplinary vertical arrangement in which a scholar’s specialized life would be lived in interactive arrangements external to the University  in the pages of Analysis and Mind and at regular meetings of inter-university professional societies, such as the APA, the Aristotelian Society, and in Canada, the recently formed Canadian Philosophical Association/Revue Canadienne de philosophie. I find these factors to have influenced Bob Pinto in two ways that matter for the contemporary study of argument and inference. In the one respect, the old University of Toronto made Bob a scholar of present-day significance, given his openness to crossing the lines of disciplines. In a further respect, the new Toronto’s influence bore upon him oppositely. He didn’t publish a piece in a good journal every two years of his professional life and he didn’t publish a research monograph every five years or so. Bob’s sole research book, Argument, Inference, and Dialectic (2001) is a collection of his papers on informal logic. His textbook, with Tony Blair and later Kate Parr, Reasoning: A Practical Guide for Canadian Students appeared in 1993. Taken together, along with Hans Hansen’s excellent introductory survey in Argument, Inference, and Dialectic, I see in this work the fruits of a fully realized life of genuine scholarly achievement. The observation for which Bob is most famous  that an argument is an invitation to inference  is but a token of that solid success. 
 
Hans Hansen reminds us that Bob’s first published paper appeared in 1984, the same year in which Speech Acts in Argumentative Discussions launched the momentous van Eemeren-Grootendorst project in pragma-dialectics. Most of the twelve papers in Bob’s collection were published in Windsor, either in its journal Informal Logic or in the Proceedings of its own conferences. That alone suggests a readiness to work at home in the company of one’s fellows, a rather old-fashioned U of T way of doing things. I see in these essays the steady hand of an independently minded epistemologist, and a subscription to the idea first bruited when we chatted  in Toronto, namely, that the foundations of human knowledge are ineliminably fallibilist, and render no epistemic assurance beyond the proceeds of well-informed, skillfully wrought, broad communal consensus under the unending updating pressures of newly arriving information. In Toronto Bob had mentioned Aristotle to this effect. I lacked the quickness and the learning to realize that he might have been thinking of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, Book I. 
 
Following our chats in Toronto, I next saw Bob was at his home university in 1978 for the First International Symposium on Informal Logic. It was very much a hail-fellow-well-met moment. We had an excellent chat, but I was a bit surprised to see that he wasn’t formally scheduled to speak as one of the symposiasts. In fact, this made perfect sense. The conference was an invitation to the world to come to Windsor and circulate its own views about the growing phenomenon of informal logic. The home-town folk would have to give them the platform. 
 
A man who is a jester in the way that Bob was runs the risk of hiding a considerable light under a considerable bushel. I’ve already suggested that, up to a point, this is what Bob did. He did it not just inadvertently, but also from a modesty that often attends the jesterly shy. Modesty I think, is one of the great virtues, and is bettered only by the greatest of them all, the virtue of courage, the subject of one of Doug Walton’s best non-argumentation books. Bob displayed it in the several good causes he fearlessly worked for, and he displayed it to the uttermost amidst the pestilences that would deny him his noble mind and, in the end, bring his suffering to end by killing him. May our dearly departed friend and colleague Robert C. Pinto rest in everlasting peace.

Dr. John Woods, FRSC

Robert Pinto

With great sadness we announce the death on September 3rd, 2019, of our esteemed colleague and friend, Bob Pinto. Bob was an active Fellow of the Centre until illness forced his absence in the last few years.

Bob was schooled in the history of philosophy at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto and in contemporary analytic philosophy in the Ph.D. program at Toronto, where he wrote a dissertation in epistemology. He was also widely read in 20th century continental philosophy. He spent his career at the University of Windsor, starting in 1963. He had friends and acquaintances in virtually every faculty and school of the University, and from the University President to the clerks in the mail room. He served as president of the faculty association and as its chief negotiator for several contracts that saw increased benefits and avoided strikes. He created a computer program for the faculty to record and calculate students’ grades, “Class Record”, that was adopted by the University.

Bob became interested in informal logic in the 1980s at the urging of his colleagues, Ralph Johnson and Tony Blair, and he published in the field for 20 years. His collected papers on informal logic, Argument, Inference and Dialectic (Kluwer, 1991), is required reading. (A list of his publications may be found elsewhere on this website.)   

Bob had a prodigious acquaintance with and memory for the history of philosophy, and it is a sad irony that the neuro-degenerative ravages of Alzheimer’s robbed him of this gift in his last years. He will be remembered by his colleagues for his genuine friendliness and kindness as well as for his significant contributions to informal logic. As one colleague expressed it, “He was a lovely man, and a very smart one.” We mourn his passing.

J.A. Blair, CRRAR Senior Research Fellow

Robert Pinto

About Bob Pinto.

I first met Professor Pinto when I interviewed for a part-time teaching job at the University of Windsor in 1983 (maybe ‘84). It was a riotous occasion: Ralph Johnson, Tony Blair and Bob Pinto did the interviewing. I was overly-confident but they were overly-forgiving and I was hired, and started a friendship with Bob Pinto that lasted over 30 years.

In the early days we regularly went to the Dominion House in Sandwich on Friday afternoons. It served as a kind of unofficial faculty club in those days. Alistair Mcleod and others from English and History and the Social Sciences were there. Bob and I argued philosophy (better: he taught me philosophy through arguing with me). Soon I introduced him to Larry Powers, my teacher at Wayne State, and then I would just listen to the two of them as over a series of meetings they worked their way through the history of philosophy and the virtues and vices of analytical philosophy. Those were extraordinary conversations between two very smart philosophers: insightful, provocative and immensely entertaining. I should have taken notes. 

In 1988 Bob spotted the new female professor in the history department before I did. He introduced us and Jane McLeod and I married less than two years later. Bob drove to our wedding in Niagara Falls, taking the eccentric Powers along with him, and stopping at every rest place along the way to let Larry have a smoke. When there was a mishap in the kitchen at the reception, Bob, dressed in his Sunday best, was down on his knees with a mop to help the kitchen staff clean it up. People who met him only once, still remember him for that.

If you only had half-an-hour, it wasn’t a good idea to go to lunch with Bob. We had to traverse some 150 yards to the cafeteria in the student union building. In Bob’s company this short distance across campus could take a small eternity. Nearly everyone we saw greeted him and invariably someone wanted his opinion on something: professors, union officers, administrators, past and present students, secretaries and ground-keepers. Bob knew their names (and often the names of their spouses); he listened, and always gave an encouraging word. It is quite extraordinary how widely liked and trusted he was. 

Bob was one of the first men on campus to push for women’s rights. Along with Pam Milne, he began to turn our heads in a new direction. He advocated for faculty positions which would be open only to women. During the same years he was one of the first to become competent with the use of personal computers, and many of us got our first lessons on how to use one from Bob. 

I helped Bob publish his book Argument, Inference and Dialectic. It makes a strong case for the epistemic approach to informal logic. We didn’t see the book or its cover until it was unpacked at one of our argumentation conferences in Windsor. The cover identified Bob as the author but, inappropriately, in even bigger letters, it identified me as the editor. That must have been annoying for Bob, although he never said so, for my role in bringing out the book was relatively minor. For me, it remains an embarrassment.

Bob was a wonderful person and a gifted philosopher, but what he should be remembered for at our University is that he was an exceptionally gifted and dedicated teacher. He was a natural: he was born to teach. He loved teaching and always considered it the most important of his academic obligations. Because he also believed that philosophy really mattered to our lives, he taught to make it matter to his students’ lives, not just the philosophy majors and the graduate students, but to many who came to his classes because “the word was out” about Professor Pinto. His urge to teach wasn’t limited to the classroom or the seminar room. It went with him wherever he got into conversations with colleagues and friends, new and old. Bob Pinto challenged us and enriched our philosophical thinking.  He was, for the years he spent with us, our Socrates. We must do all we can to emulate his example. 

Hans V. Hansen 
Department of Philosophy
University of Windsor