Goodman, Nelson (1906–98)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M045-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Nelson Goodman was an American philosopher who wrote important works in metaphysics, aesthetics and epistemology. Throughout his work runs a concern with the ways that the symbols we construct inform the facts that we find, and structure our understanding of them. Different symbol systems yield irreconcilable structures. So there is no one way things really are. There are, he concludes, many worlds if any. Moreover, worlds are made rather than found, for the categories we construct fix the criteria of identity for the individuals and kinds we recognize. Thus they determine what objects and kinds constitute a world.

Goodman argues that the arts as well as the sciences make and reveal worlds. Aesthetics as he construes it is a branch of epistemology. He analyses a variety of modes of symbolization, literal and metaphorical, and shows how they contribute in the arts and elsewhere to the advancement of understanding.

Goodman’s ‘new riddle of induction’ reveals that the problem of induction runs deeper than philosophers had thought. He defines the predicate ‘grue’ as ‘examined before future time t and found to be green or not so examined and blue.’ All emeralds examined to date have been both green and grue. What justifies our expecting future emeralds to be green rather than grue? Inductive validity, the new riddle shows, turns not only on the constitution of an evidence class, but also on its characterization. The question then is what favours one characterization over its rivals. The fact that ‘green’ has been used far more often than ‘grue’ in induction, Goodman contends, provides the answer – not because it increases our odds of being right, but because of its pragmatic advantages.

    Citing this article:
    Elgin, Catherine Z.. Goodman, Nelson (1906–98), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M045-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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