Fact, Fiction, and Forecast

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Harvard University Press, 1983 - Philosophy - 131 pages
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Here, in a new edition, is Nelson Goodman's provocative philosophical classic--a book that, according to Science, "raised a storm of controversy" when it was first published in 1954, and one that remains on the front lines of philosophical debate.

How is it that we feel confident in generalizing from experience in some ways but not in others? How are generalizations that are warranted to be distinguished from those that are not? Goodman shows that these questions resist formal solution and his demonstration has been taken by nativists like Chomsky and Fodor as proof that neither scientific induction nor ordinary learning can proceed without an a priori, or innate, ordering of hypotheses.

In his new foreword to this edition, Hilary Putnam forcefully rejects these nativist claims. The controversy surrounding these unsolved problems is as relevant to the psychology of cognitive development as it is to the philosophy of science. No serious student of either discipline can afford to misunderstand Goodman's classic argument.


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About the author (1983)

Nelson Goodman's work develops themes in philosophy of science, mind, art, and language. Born in Massachusetts, he was educated at Harvard University and had an early career as an art dealer. After military service during World War II, he chose the academic life and taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Brandeis University before returning to Harvard in 1968. Goodman's early work grows out of logical positivism. His paradox presents a difficulty for inductive logic. It is developed by showing that an empirical statement can be expressed by more than one set of words and that its' degree of confirmation can depend on the words used to express it---not solely on its content or the supporting evidence. Scientific method thus intersects the philosophy of language. On this basis, Goodman develops a sophisticated nominalism (a view stressing the power of language to determine meaning), which remains solidly within the analytic tradition. His philosophy of language also develops themes of construction and simplicity. Goodman's later work contains an original treatment of representation. In asking how an original can be represented in perception, language, or art, he argues that there is no straightforward relation between the original and its representation. Understanding a photograph as a representation, for example, is neither simple nor intuitive. Representations, to be understood as such, must be interpreted instead within a network of more or less conventional rules.

Hilary Putnam was Cogan University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University.

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