Formalism, Foundations, and Forecast

John Collier
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Goodman’s account of the ‘grue’ paradox stands at a crossroads in the history of twentieth century epistemology. Published in 1954, Fact, Fiction, and Forecast is a reaction to the logical empiricist views that held sway in the first half of the last century and anticipates many of the conventionalist and/or relativist moves popular throughout the second half. Through his evaluation of Hume’s problem of induction, as well as his own novel reformulation of it, Goodman comes to reject a number of the fundamental parts of logical empiricism. In particular, Goodman argues that the formal epistemic methods the logical empiricists wanted to rely upon are insufficient. This leads him to turn towards conventionalism, which is the basis of his rejection of the objective view of knowledge. In his conventionalism he is a precursor of writers such as Hanson, Kuhn and Feyerabend, who, seeing the inadequacy of formalism, sought to fill the gaps it left in epistemic methodology with scientific values, tacit knowledge and linguistic practices. Making use of Susan Haack’s distinction between three different kinds of foundationalism, we analyse Goodman’s position and its relation to the views of the logical empiricists. The two are reflections of each other in that, where the logical empiricists are foundationalists in their views on empirical evidence, methods used and objective criteria of justification, Goodman consistently opts for the corresponding coherentist options. As it turns out, this choice of options makes it impossible for Goodman to deal with the very objections he raises against the logical empiricists. In adding the new problem of induction to the old one, Goodman adds a problem which clearly can not be resolved by a purely syntactic solution. The charge Goodman raises is that logical empiricists cannot determine which predictions are sound and which are not. We argue that his method of identifying acceptable predictions based on the use of entrenchment is, in the end, arbitrary and only postpones the underlying problem.
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