Friday, July 29, 2005

Nelson Goodman

Goodman received his doctorate from Harvard in 1941. He's not listed among the Quine students, so his advisor must have been someone else. His book A Study of Qualities came out in 1941, so I'm assuming it was his dissertation.

Update: I've now put Goodman under C.I. Lewis in the tree.


Anonymous Marcus Rossberg said...

First of all: Congratulations to the this project!

A Study of Qualities wasn't published as such before 1990 but it is indeed Goodman's PhD dissertation. His first book publication, The Structure of Appearance (1951), is based on it; it is substantially reworked, however.

In the preface to A Study of Qualities, Goodman thanks "the late James H. Woods" for his "kindness and encouragement" that first led him to undertake this project. He also thanks C.I. Lewis for encouragement and discussions especially in the early stages of his PhD.

Woods might have first taken Goodman on as an advisee, or literally just encouraged him. Woods philosophical interests don't seem to coincide with Goodman's project. There is, however, some Lewisian influence in the dissertation (which, like Structure, mainly deals with Carnap's Aufbau, of course).

Goodman also thanks Henry Leonard, Quine and Carnap in this preface. He worked closely together with Quine and especially Leonard, as is well known. With the latter he developed the "Calculus of Individuals" which both Goodman and Leonard made use of in their respective PhD dissertations. It is unlikely that either Leonard or Quine were on Goodman's PhD committee. Quine, around that time, complained that he's still assistant professor at Harvard, and so not a full member of the faculty. I assume that prevented him from being on PhD committees, too.

Goodman was two years older than Quine, and died a year before him, by the way. Goodman's work as an art gallerist as well as his perfectionism delayed his PhD so that in the end it took him more than 12 years to finish his PhD. (The fact that he couldn't get a scholarship due to his Jewish roots might have played a role as well.)

So, the best guess for a Goodman parent is, IMHO, C.I. Lewis.


8/03/2005 04:00:00 AM  
Blogger Josh Dever said...


Thanks -- that's all extremely useful. I don't know anything about the dates for Leonard - what makes you think that he's not a plausible member of Goodman's committee? My reading of Goodman's preface was that Leonard was presented in the most advisorial light there. I agree that if Leonard isn't plausible, then it's got to be Lewis, although the specific limitation of the thanks to Lewis to the early stages is a bit odd.

8/04/2005 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Steven Gross said...

I believe Leonard was a fellow grad student and then briefly an Instructor before moving on. I'm not positive about that, though.

8/05/2005 05:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Marcus Rossberg said...


Sorry for not being explict about Leonard:

Steven is right: Goodman calls Henry Leonard "my fellow student" in his Problems and Projects, p 149.

Leonard, incidentally, handed in his thesis Singular Terms in December 1930. In his preface he thanks Goodman.
Leonard's advisor might have been Whitehead: "Conversations with Professor Whitehead have been particularly stimulating." (Also from the preface of his thesis.)

Just checking Goodman's Memorial Note in the memorial volume for Leonard The Logical Way of Doing Things (ed. K. Lambert, 1969) again, Goodman describes their time as fellow undergraduate students at Harvard there. Then he writes, "Leonard went on to study with Whitehead".

Hope this helps,

PS: The revised famility tree does not appear to be online yet; is that right, or am I doing something wrong?

8/08/2005 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Josh Dever said...

Thanks. I've now put Goodman under Lewis. Marcus, the upload seems to have gone wrong, but I'm pretty sure it's working now.

8/08/2005 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Marcus Rossberg said...

Yes, works fine now. Thanks!

Do you think the evidence to put Henry Leonard under Whitehead is too slim?


8/08/2005 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Josh Dever said...


I've now added Leonard under Lewis. It'll show up next time I update the online tree.

8/09/2005 08:35:00 AM  
Anonymous marcus Rossberg said...


That's cool---but you meant "under Whitehead", right? ;-)


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