Putnam. Reflections on Goodman's Ways of Worldmaking

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Journal of Philosophy, Inc.

Reflections on Goodman's Ways of Worldmaking Author(s): Hilary Putnam Reviewed work(s): Source: The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 76, No. 11, Seventy-Sixth Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division (Nov., 1979), pp. 603-618 Published by: Journal of Philosophy, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2025692 . Accessed: 22/06/2012 13:50Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

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NE of the most important themes in Goodman'sbookt is

that there is no privileged basis. Reducing sense data to physical objects or events is an admissible research program for Goodman; it is no more (and no less) reasonable than reducing physical objects to sense data. As research programs, there is nothing wrong with either physicalism or phenomenalism; as dogmatic monisms there is everything wrong with both of them. This is decidedly not the fashionable opinion today. Physicalism and "realism" are at the high tide of fashion; phenomenalism has sunk out of sight in a slough of philosophical disesteem and neglect. Goodman's assumption that physicalism and phenomenalism are analogous would be disputed by many philosophers. It is this assumption that I wish to explain and defend before considering other aspects of WoW. Because it runs so counter to the fashion, it may be of great importance to see that it is correct. At the same time, the analogy leads directly to the heart of Goodman's book, which is its defense of pluralism. In WoW, Goodman points out that the phenomenal itself has many equally valid descriptions. In his view, this arises from two causes. First of all, perception is itself notoriously influenced by interpretations provided by habit, culture, and theory. (Goodman's long and close acquaintance with actual psychological research shines through many sections of WoW.) We see toothbrushes and vacuum tubes as toothbrushes and vacuum tubes, not as arrangements of color patches. Secondly, there is, for Goodman as for the* To be presented in an APA symposium on Goodman's Ways of Worldmaking, December 28, 1979. Nelson Goodman, Carl G. Hempel, and Israel Scheffler will comment; see this JOURNAL, this issue, 618/9, for abstracts of Goodman's comments and Scheffler's; Hempel's paper is not available at this time. t Indianapolis: Hackett, 1978; referred to below as "WoW"; parenithetical references in the text are to this book.


(C 1979 The Journal of Philosophy, Inc. 603



late Wittgenstein, no sharp line to be of the experience and the description after reporting a finding by Kolers number of engineers and physicians motion at all, Goodman comments:

drawn between the character given by the subject. Thus, (92) that a disproportionate are unable to see apparent

Yet if an observer reports that lie sees two distinct flaslhes,even at distances and intervals so short that most observers see one moving spot, perhaps lhe means that he sees the two as we might say we- see a swarm of molecules when we look at a chair, or as we do when we say we see a round table top even wlhen we look at it from an oblique angle. Since an observer can become adept at distinguishing apparent from real motion, he may take the appearance of motion as a sign that there are two flashes, as we take the oval appearance of the table top as a sign that it is round; and in both cases the signs may be or become so transparent that we look through them to physical events and objects. When the observer visually determines that wlhat is before him is what we agree is before him, we can lhardly clharge him with an error in visual perception. Shall we say, ratlher, that he misunderstands the instruction, wlhich is presumably just to tell what he sees? Then how, without prejudicing the outcome, can we so reframe the instruction as to prevent suclh a "misunderstanding"? Asking him to make no use of prior experience and to avoid all conceptualization will obviously leave him speechless; for to talk at all he must use words. In the same way, there are different possible ways of reporting physical events and motions. And here too there is no sharp line to be drawn between the character of the object or motion and the description we give of it. As Goodman puts it (93): Did the sun set a while ago, or did the earth rise? Does the sun go around the earth or the earth go around the sun? Nowadays, we nonchalantly deal with what was once a life-and-deatlh issue by saying that the answer depends on the framework. But here again, if we say that the geocentric and heliocentric systems are different versions of "the same facts," we must ask not what these facts are but rather lhow such phrases as "version of the same facts" or "descriptions of the same world" are to be understood. This varies from case to case; here, the geocentric and the heliocentric versions, while speaking of the same particular objects-the sun, moon, and planets-attribute very different motions to these objects. Still, we may say the two versions deal with the same facts if we mean by this that they not only speak of the same objects but are also routinely intertranslatable each into the other. As meanings vanish in favor of certain relationships among terms, so facts vanish in favor of certain relationships



among versions. In the present case the relationship is comparatively obvious; sometimes it is much more elusive. For instance, thle physical and perceptual versions of motion we were talking about do not evidently deal with the same objects, and the relationslip if any that constitutes license for saying that the two versions describe the same facts or the same world is no ready intertranslatability. In the case of the subject who is being asked to describe apparent motion, Goodman says (92/3): The best we can do is to specify the sort of terms, the vocabulary, he is to use, telling him to describe wlhat he sees in perceptual or phenomenal rather than physical terms. Wlhether or not tlis yields different responses, it casts an entirely different liglht on what is hlappening. That the instrument to be used in fashioning the facts must be specified makes pointless any identification of the plhysical witli the real and of the perceptual with the merely apparent. The perceptual is no more a rather distorted version of the physical facts than the physical is a highly artificial version of the perceptual facts. The examples are well selected, but they would not convince a die-hard physicalist. In the rest of this section I intend, therefore, to examine some standard physicalist rejoinders to the line Goodman takes.

1. The "We're not looking for translations" responsePhenomenalists were trying to find meaning-preserving translations from tlhing language into sense-datum language. Ph-ysicalists wlho hope that future science will vindicate them by finding a neural event or a functional state of the nervous system, or whatever, which can be identified with any given mental event are looking for empirical identities, not analytic ones. Thus Goodman's analogy between phenomenalism and physicalism fails. Goodman, however, has never accepted the analytic-synthetic distinction, nor (as far back as The Structure of Appearance 1) has he If one ever required that reductions must be meaning-preserving. called an "extensional isomorphism" (in could find what Goodman SoA) between thing language and (a part of) sense-datum language which enabled one to preserve truth value in "translating" from thing language into sense-datum language, then, even if the translation did not preserve "meaning," it could still be of great interest. If the physicalist is allowed to look for "reductions" in more1 New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966; hereafter SoA.



than one sense, so is the phenomenalist. Indeed, one of Goodman's points is precisely that there are many senses of 'reduiction'. At this point the physicalist is likely to respond that physicalistic "translations" (of psychological talk into brain-state or functionalstate talk) will eventually be found by neurology, or by cognitive psychology, but translations of thing talk into sense-datum talk will never be found for the simple reason that they don't exist. When one looks at an article like "Mental Representation" by Hartry Field,9 however, it turns out that the translation will not be of psychological talk as it is but of a specially constructed substitute, and that even the translation of this substitute will depend on the successful carrying out of the program for translating 'refers' (i.e., the two-place predicate "x refers to y," or, more generally, the relation of satisfaction in the sense of formal semantics) into physicalist language that Field proposed some years ago.3 How to do this, Field gives no hint, and his discussion suggests that carrying out his program would require defining a physicalistic relation between signs (or sign uses) and things (or properties) which analyzes such things as the applicat