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Nelson Goodman


Harvard U.P.



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Henry Nelson Goodman (1906–1998) was one of the most influential philosophers of the post-war era of American philosophy. Goodman’s philosophical interests ranged from formal logic and the philosophy of science to the philosophy of art. In all these diverse fields Goodman made significant and highly original contributions. Perhaps his most famous contribution is the “grue-paradox”, which points to the problem that in order to learn by induction, we need to make a distinction between projectible ...


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.


“Quite possibly the best book by a philosopher in the last twenty years. It changed, probably permanently, the way we think about the problem of induction, and hence about a constellation of related problems like learning and the nature of rational decision. This is the work of contemporary philosophy that I would most like to have written.”  ―J. A. Fodor ― Arthur Pap, The Review of Metaphysics, Vol.9, No.2 (Dec. 1955), pp.285-299


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