Publication 7888

Goodman N. (1975) Words, works, worlds. Erkenntnis 9: 57–73. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/7888
Excerpt: Countless worlds made from nothing by use of symbols – so might a satirist summarize some of Cassirer’s major themes. These themes – the multiplicity of worlds, the speciousness of ‘the given’, the creative power of the understanding, the variety and formative function of symbols – are also integral to my own thinking. Sometimes, though, I forget that they have been so eloquently set forth by Cassirer, 1 partly perhaps because his emphasis on myth, his concern with the comparative study of cultures, and his talk of the human spirit have been mistakenly associated with current trends toward mystical obscurantism, anti-intellectual intuition ism, or anti-scientific humanism. Acutally these attitudes are as alien to Cassirer as to my own skeptical, analytic, constructionalist orientation. My aim in what follows is less to defend certain theses that Cassirer and I share than to take a hard look at some crucial questions they raise. In just what sense are there many worlds? What distinguishes genuine from spurious worlds? What are worlds made of? How are they made, and what role do symbols play in the making? And how is worldmaking related to knowing? These questions must be faced even if full and final answers are far off.

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