Highlighted Selections from:

Ways of Worldmaking


Goodman, Nelson. Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 1978. Print. http://monoskop.org/log/?p=11140

p.8: This book does not run a straight course from beginning to end. It hunts; and in the hunting, it sometimes worries the same raccoon in different trees, or different raccoons in Ihe same tree, or even what turns out to be no raccoon in any tree. It finds itself balking more than once at the same barrier and taking off on other trails. It drinks often from the same streams, and stumbles over some cruel country. And it counts not the kill but what is learned of the territory explored. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.12: In just what sense are there many worlds? What distinguishes genuine from spurious worlds? What are worlds made of? How are they made? 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. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.14: Even with all illusory or wrong or dubious versions dropped, the rest exhibit new dimensions of disparity. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.15: While we may speak of determining what versions are right as 'learning about the world', 'the world' supposedly being that which all right versions describe, all we learn about the world is contained in right versions of it; and while the underlying world, bereft of these, need not be denied to those who love it, it is perhaps on the whole a world well lost. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.17: Worldmaking as we know it always starts from worlds already on hand; the making is a remaking. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.20: Whether or not today's experiment repeats yesterday's, however much the two events may differ, depends upon whether they test a common hypothesis; as Sir George Thomson puts it:

There win always be something different.... What it comes to when you say you repeat an experiment is that you repeat all the features of an experiment which a theory determines are relevant. In other words you repeat the experiment as an example of the theory.

-- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.23: Worlds not differing in entities or emphasis may differ in ordering; for example, the worlds of different constructional systems differ in order of derivation. As nothing is at rest or is in motion apart from a frame of reference, so nothing is primitive or is derivationally prior to anything apart from a constructional system. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.24: And spatial order in a map or a score is translated into the temporal sequence of a trip or a performance. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.25: Gombrich discusses the decimal periodization of historical time into decades, centuries, and millennia. Daily time is marked off into twenty-four hours, and each of these into sixty minutes of sixty seconds each. Whatever else may be said of these modes of organization, they are not 'found in the world' but built into a world. Ordering, as well as composition and decomposition and weighting of wholes and kinds, participates in worldmaking. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.26: The scientist is no less drastic, rejecting or purifying most of the entities and events of the world of ordinary things while generating quantities of filling for curves suggested by sparse data, and erecting elaborate structures on the basis of meagre observations. Thus does he strive to build a world conforming to his chosen concepts and obeying his universal laws. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.28: With all this freedom to divide and combine, emphasize, order, delete, fill in and fill out, and even distort, what are the objectives and the constraints? What are the criteria for success in making a world? -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.28: But truth cannot be defined or tested by agreement with 'the world'; for not only do truths differ for different worlds but the nature of agreement between a version and a world apart from it is notoriously nebulous. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.29: The scientist who supposes that he is single-mindedly dedicated to the search for truth deceives himself. He is unconcerned with the trivial truths he could grind out endlessly; and he looks to the multifaceted and irregular results of observations for little more than suggestions of overall structures and significant generalizations. He seeks system, simplicity, scope; and when satisfied on these scores he tailors truth to fit. He as much decrees as discovers the laws he sets forth, as much designs as discerns the patterns he delineates. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.30: Rather than speak of pictures as true or false we might better speak of theories as right or wrong; for the truth of the laws of a theory is but one special feature and is often, as we have seen, overridden in importance by the cogency and compactness and comprehensiveness, the informativeness and organizing power of the whole system. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.30: "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" would thus be a perverse and paralyzing policy for any world maker. The whole truth would be too much; it is too vast, variable, and clogged with trivia. The truth alone would be too little, for some right versions are not true - being either false or neither true nor false - and even for true versions rightness may matter more. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.31: Shouldn't we now return to sanity from all this mad proliferation of worlds? Shouldn't we stop speaking of right versions as if each were, or had, its own world, and recognize all as versions of one and the same neutral and underlying world? The world thus regained, as remarked earlier, is a world without kinds or order or motion or rest or pattern - a world not worth fighting for or against. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.32: Moreover, while readiness to recognize alternative worlds may be liberating, and suggestive of new avenues of exploration, a willingness to welcome all worlds builds none. Mere acknowledgement of the many available frames of reference provides us with no map of the motions of heavenly bodies; acceptance of the eligibility of alternative bases produces no scientific theory or philosophical system; awareness of varied ways of seeing paints no pictures. A broad mind is no substitute for hard work. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.33: Furthermore, if worlds are as much made as found, so also knowing is as much remaking as reporting. All the processes of worldmaking I have discussed enter into knowing. Perceiving motion, we have seen, often consists in producing it. Discovering laws involves drafting them. Recognizing patterns is very much a matter of inventing and imposing them. Comprehension and creation go on together. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.36: For sometimes style is a mailer of subject. I do not mean merely that subject may influence style but that some differences in style consist entirely of differences in what is said. Suppose one historian writes in terms of military conflicts, another in terms of social changes; or suppose one biographer stresses public careers, another personal lives. The differences between the two histories of a given period, or between the two biographies of a given person, here lie not in the character of the prose but in what is said. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.49: Does this mean that concepts of style are mere instruments for the literary or art historian, curatorial devices for sorting works according to origin? Are styles, like catalogue listings and excavation reports, simply aids in filing or have they aesthetic significance? Is stylistics merely part of the mechanics of scholarship or does it concern works as art? -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.49: The question as framed is misleading. It assumes that attribution is alien to aesthetics, that the 'mere' identification of artist, period, place, or school is aesthetically irrelevant, that history and criticism are entirely independent pursuits. This is a mistake. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.49: Indeed the perceptual discovery of a style must usually start from prior identification of works representing an artist or school. Thus attributions however effected contribute to the understanding of works as art. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.73: That a picture is in the Metropolitan Museum, that it was painted in Duluth, that it is younger than Methuselah, would hardly be called internal properties. Getting rid of representation and expression does not give us something free of such external or extraneous properties. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.81: A salient feature of symbolization, I have urged, is that it may come and go. An object may symbolize different things at different times, and nothing at other times. An inert or purely utilitarian object may come to function as art, and a work of art may come to function as an inert or purely utilitarian object. Perhaps, rather than art being long and life short. both are transient. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.102: My title, 'The Fabrication of Facts", has the virtue not only of indicating pretty clearly what I am going to discuss but also of irritating those fundamentalists who know very well that facts are found not made, that facts constitute the one and only real world, and that knowledge consists of believing the facts. These articles of faith so firmly possess most of us, they so bind and blind us, that "fabrication of fact" has a paradoxical sound. "Fabrication" has become a synonym for "falsehood" or "fiction" as contrasted with "truth" or "fact". Of course, we must distinguish falsehood and fiction from truth and fact; but we cannot, I am sure, do it on the ground that fiction is fabricated and fact found. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.103: When the observer visually determines that what is before him is what we agree is before him, we can hardly charge him with an error in visual perception. Shall we say, rather, that he misunderstands the instruction, which is presumably just to tell what he sees? Then how, without prejudicing the outcome, can we so reframe that instruction as to prevent such a 'misunder standing'? 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. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.114: Some depictions and descriptions, though, do not literally denote anything. Painted or written portrayals of Don Quixote, for example, do not denote Don Quixote - who is simply not there to be denoted. Works of fiction in literature and their counterparts in other arts obviously play a prominent role in worldmaking; our worlds are no more a heritage from scientists, biographers, and historians than from novelists, playwrights, and painters, But how can versions of nothing thus participate in the making of actual worlds? The inevitable proposal to supply fictive entities and possible worlds as denotata will not, even for those who can swallow it, help with this question, Yet the answer, once sought, comes rather readily. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.115: Metaphor is no mere decorative rhetorical device but a way we make our terms do multiple moonlighting service. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.117: A poem, a painting, and a piano sonata may literally and metaphorically exemplify some of the same features; and any of these works may thus have effects transcending its own medium. In these days of experimentation with the combination of media in the performing arts, nothing is clearer than that music affects seeing, that pictures affect hearing, that both affect and are affected by the movement of dance. They all interpenetrate in making a world. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.117: But whether alone or in combination, the several modes and means of symbolization are powerful instruments. With them, a Japanese haiku or five-line poem by Samuel Menashe can renovate and remodel a world; without them, the moving of mountains by an environmental artist would be futile. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.118: But to suppose that science is flatfootedly linguistic, literal and denotational would be to overlook, for instance, the analog instruments often used, the metaphor involved in measurement when a numerical scheme is applied in a new realm, and the talk in current physics and astronomy of charm and strangeness and black holes. Even if the ultimate product of science, unlike that of art, is a literal verbal or mathematical, denotational theory, science and art proceed in much the same way with their searching and building. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.120: With multiple and sometimes unreconciled and even unreconciable theories and descriptions recognized as admissible alternatives, our notions about truth call for some reexamination. And with our view of worldmaking expanded far beyond theories and descriptions, beyond statements, beyond language, beyond denotation even, to include versions and visions metaphorical as well as literal, pictorial and musical as well as verbal, exemplifying and expressing as well as describing and depicting, the distinction between true and false falls far short of marking the general distinction between right and wrong versions. What standard of rightness then, for example, is the counterpart of truth for works without subjects that present worlds by exemplification or expression? -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.121: To anyone but an arrant absolutist, alternative ostensibly conflicting versions often present good and equal claims to truth. We can hardly take conflicting statements as true in the same world without admitting all statements whatsoever (since all follow from any contradiction) as true in the same world, and that world itself as impossible. Thus we must either reject one of two ostensibly conflicting versions as false, or take them as true in different worlds, or find if we can another way of reconciling them. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014

p.150: The vaunted claim of community of opinion among scientists is mocked by fundamental controversies raging in almost every science from psychology to astrophysics. And judgments of the Parthenon and the Book of Kells have hardly been more variable than judgments of the laws of gravitation. I am not claiming that rightness in the arts is less subjective, or even no more subjective, than truth in the sciences, but only suggesting that the line between artistic and scientific judgment does not coincide with the line between subjective and objective, and that any approach to universal accord on anything significant is exceptional. -- Highlighted apr 2, 2014