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Goodman, Nelson


GOODMAN, NELSON (1906–1998), U.S. philosopher. Born in Somerville, Massachusetts, Goodman received his B.S. magna cum laude (1928) and his Ph.D. (1941) from Harvard University. From 1929 to 1941 he ran the Walker-Goodman Art Gallery in Boston, and remained an avid collector of ancient and modern art. He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945.

He taught at Tufts College (1945–46), the University of Pennsylvania (1946–64), and Brandeis University (1964–67). In 1968 he was named professor of philosophy at Harvard. His philosophical studies ranged over many areas, including logic, epistemology, and aesthetics.

Two of Goodman's important early works are The Structure of Appearance (1951) and Fact, Fiction and Forecast (1955). In the late 1950s he turned his attention to the theory of simplicity, which was the main theme of his many contributions to philosophical journals. In attempting to eliminate superfluous entities in any complete description of the world, Goodman's work shows the influence of Bertrand Russell and W. Van Orman Quine.

In 1967, as a research associate at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, Goodman founded Project Zero. The program's purpose was to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at both the individual and institutional level. He served as the project's director until 1971, engaging in basic research into education and the arts, while also producing a number of programs in film, dance, music, theater, and poetry. For example, Goodman created Hockey Seen in collaboration with choreographer Martha Gray, composer John Adams, and artist Katharine Sturgis – Goodman's wife. It was performed at Harvard in 1972 and was filmed there in 1984.

Articles about Goodman and his work frequently appeared in the European press, such as Le Monde, Frankfurter Allgemeine, and other leading international newspapers. Among his many awards and honors, Goodman received the Guggenheim Award in 1946 and 1947. Other books by Goodman include Problems and Projects (1972), Ways of Worldmaking (1978), Of Mind and Other Matters (1984), Reconceptions in Philosophy and Other Arts and Sciences (with C. Elgin, 1988), and The Languages of Art (1997).


A. Hausman and F. Wilson, Carnap and Goodman, Two Formalists (1967). add. bibliography: C. Elgin, The Philosophy of Nelson Goodman (1997).

[Avrum Stroll /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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