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Goodman, Nelson (1906–98)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M045-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved July 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

Nelson Goodman (1906–98) was a twentieth century American philosopher who made important contributions to metaphysics, aesthetics, epistemology, and the philosophy of science. His works display a concern with the ways the symbols that we construct structure both the facts that we find and our understanding of those facts. Different symbol systems yield irreconcilable structures, so there is no single way things really are. There are, he concludes, many worlds if any. He contends, moreover, that worlds are made rather than found, for the categories we construct fix the criteria of identity for the individuals and kinds we recognise. They thus 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 symbolisation, literal and metaphorical, and shows how they contribute in the arts as elsewhere to the advancement of understanding.

Goodman’s new riddle of induction reveals that the problem of induction is deeper than philosophers had recognised. He defines the predicate ‘grue’ as ‘examined before future time t and found to be green or not so examined and blue’. Since 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, depends not only on the constitution of an evidence class, but also on how that evidence is described. The question then is what favours one description 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), 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M045-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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