UC Berkeley professor of philosophy, ‘very distinctive’ writer Barry Stroud dies at age 84

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Barry Stroud, a UC Berkeley Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, died Aug. 9 of brain cancer at age 84, leaving behind numerous students and his three daughters.

Known for challenging conventional philosophical attitudes, Stroud began teaching at UC Berkeley in 1961 after obtaining his doctorate from Harvard University. Years before he retired in 2016, Stroud was named a faculty research lecturer, according to his daughter Sarah Stroud, who is a professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

According to UC Berkeley chair of philosophy Niko Kolodny, Barry Stroud made others think about their own thought processes rather than encouraging them to propose theories or answer questions.

“He thought that the classic questions that philosophers ask cannot be answered, at least not in the terms that philosophers ask them,” Kolodny said in an email. “For him, the central questions were: Why can’t we answer these questions to our satisfaction? Why do we keep asking them? How are we to make our peace with the fact that we are driven to ask these questions that we can’t answer?”

Tyler Haddow, one of Barry Stroud’s students who also worked as one of his graduate student instructors, said Stroud had a profound impact on his approach to the subject.

Haddow added that Barry Stroud taught him the importance of seeing the intersections between different areas of philosophy.

“Although I am still doing ethics for the most part, I’m trying to do ethics in a way that’s really sensitive to philosophy of mind, action, language, emotion and aesthetics,” Haddow said. “It’s completely transformed the way I approach philosophy.”

Before he retired in 2016, Barry Stroud taught both graduate and undergraduate students, as he wanted to help them find their passions. Once he retired, he continued to teach graduate students, according to his daughter Julie Stroud.

His daughters also spoke about their father’s life outside of UC Berkeley. They both spoke about Barry Stroud’s wit and love of wordplay. He also enjoyed puns and spoke with “very precise language,” they said.

“He had a very distinctive voice,” Sarah Stroud said. “If you picked up one of his books, the way he writes is very unique to him.”

Barry Stroud also had a love of sports, as he spent his high school and college years playing football and basketball. While at UC Berkeley, he ran or walked six miles every day through Tilden Regional Park. Julie Stroud added that her father believed his athleticism “gave him a confidence that was the foundation of his academic work.”

Though Barry Stroud loved culture and traveling, he was also a familiar face at many local businesses, according to Julie Stroud. She added that she is now writing more than 30 letters notifying local business of his passing, per his request

“He made a village out of this place where he lived,” Julie Stroud said.

Contact Maya Akkaraju at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.