Nelson Goodman

Nelson Goodman ( born August 7, 1906 in Somerville, Massachusetts, † November 25, 1998 in Needham, Massachusetts ) was an American philosopher.

Goodman was a student of Alfred North Whitehead. After his graduation in 1928 in Harvard, he headed from 1929 to 1940 an art gallery in Boston. In 1941 he received his Ph.D. and then served until 1945 in the U.S. Infantry.

From 1946 to 1964 he taught at the University of Pennsylvania, where in 1951 he became a professor. From 1964 he taught at Brandeis University and at Tufts University. In 1968 he became a professor at Harvard.

Theoretical work

Goodman was strongly influenced by Rudolf Carnap's empiricism and phenomenalism and took positions of a relativistic pluralism. In European philosophy remained largely unnoticed, Goodman played in the American analytic philosophy an important role: he was known primarily for his ' new riddle of induction ', which deals with the verification of statements, and the draft symbol theory of sign systems. His strictly extensional theory of symbols manages to avoid metaphysical constructions of the object - sign - linking, for example, Charles S. Peirce still needed for his theory of symbols.

In his work ' Languages ​​of Art ' explained Goodman, that the difference between a picture and a description of an object not is that the picture is similar to the object as its description. Goodman shows that similarity is neither sufficient nor necessary condition for representation, as opposed to similarity representation is a symmetrical relationship. For example, when XY is similar, then YX is also similar, but when XY represents then YX represents generally not. So if one twin is similar to the others, so this also applies vice versa. Nevertheless, the claim would be a twin representing the other absurd. On the other hand I represents an image of myself, but not vice versa. Also to say that I look similar to the image, in turn, is not tenable. Goodman analyzes the difference between pictorial representation and description as a syntactic difference in presentation: he writes a file to the property to be analogous in the logical sense, while a linguistic symbol scheme is digital. As an analogy applies to Goodman a symbol scheme which is syntactically ' tight ', so that all elements of the symbol scheme of importance, so you can not draw boundaries between the individual elements. A digital scheme, however, is disjoint and finally differentiated. It consists of inscriptions or ' tokens ', which refer to a type or character. A token is disjoint if it can not be simultaneously assigned to the type1 and type2 the. He is finally differentiated if it can be decided in a finite period of time, whether it must be attributed to Type 1 or Type 2. So there is the word " duck " a billion times as enrollment in the form of copies. A single inscription of " duck " is disjoint, since it is clear that they can not simultaneously represent " duck " and " end ". Finally, it is differentiated if one can make this decision in a finite number of steps. In contrast, of pictorial representation, there is no type. Accordingly, the categories can be disjoint and finally differentiated not even apply. On this basis, Goodman designs a wide range of completely analog representations to digital pure. A picture is entirely analog, while a score is purely digital. The language, however, is a hybrid, as it is indeed syntactically digital, but not semantically. The word " ball " can refer to both a sports car as well as a dance, so it is not semantically disjoint.

In the " ways of world production " Goodman turns to the ontology. It solves the logical dilemma that two descriptions in the world to protest and in this sense may be true, but they contradict each other, there arises that not describe these two descriptions of the same, but two different worlds. For example, both " the earth moves ", and " the earth stands still " both true, depending on the frame of reference. An astronomer who studied cosmic movement, examines a world that moves. A guard with orders to shoot prisoners as soon as they move, this will likely not do, "because they have moved at high speed around the sun." There are two different versions of the world.

In the "Revisions - Philosophy and Other Arts and Sciences " Goodman summarizes eventually together with Catherine Z. Elgin his research of philosophy of science, the theory of symbols and epistemology together and kicks in the third part of the book a " recasting of philosophy " before. At the core of this new version is the concept of "truth" by the replaced the " correctness ", as with the latter, not the " notorious philosophical quagmire " opens and he is also applicable to non-verbal or proportional symbol systems. So you can say that it is true that a picture expresses grief, while one can hardly say that this is true.


  • The Structure of Appearance. Harvard University Press, 1951. 315 15 S.
  • Fact, Fiction and Forecast. . . Harvard University Press 1955, 2nd edition 1983 German translator's by Hermann Vetter: fact, fiction, prediction. With a foreword by Hilary Putnam. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1988, 10 155 pp. ISBN 3-518-28332-4
  • Languages ​​of Art - An Approach to a Theory of Symbols. London. Oxford University Press. 1969th German translator's Bernd Philippi: Languages ​​of art. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 1998, ISBN 3-518-28904-7
  • Problems and Projects. Indianapolis. Hackett 1972.
  • Ways of World Making. Indianapolis.. Hackett 1978 German translator's Max Looser: ways of world production. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 1984, 178 pp. ISBN 978-3-518-28463-6
  • Of Mind and other Matters. Cambridge, Massachusetts, London. 1984th German translator's Bernd Philippi: From thinking and other things. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1987, 295 pp. ISBN 978-3-518-57831-5
  • Together with Catherine Z. Elgin: Reconceptions in Philosophy and other Arts and Sciences, Indianapolis: Hackett; . London: Routledge, 1988 German translator's Bernd Philippi: Revisions - philosophy and other arts and sciences. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1989, 225 pp. ISBN 978-3-518-57979-4