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In Defense of Irrealism

In response to:

Otherworldly from the November 23, 1978 issue

To the Editors:

I am grateful to Professor Quine for reviewing so promptly my Ways of Worldmaking [NYR, November 23]. However, he leaves your readers unaware that this book developed against the background of my earlier books: The Structure of Appearance; Fact, Fiction, and Forecast; Languages of Art; and Problems and Projects. And he does not mention my struggle in the final chapter with the general problem of rightness of rendering, which must be dealt with in any such relativistic irrealism as I sketch.

His severest criticism is that I treat with respect not only the worlds of physics and of everyday practice but also world versions in the paintings of Rembrandt and Rouault and Picasso, and even in abstract art and music. He “feels that this sequence of worlds or versions founders in absurdity.” Bad enough to treat representational painting and music with respect. But abstract art, too? Horrors!

He writes that my recognition of multiple words will put off some of my readers. His dismissal of my thesis that the arts must be taken no less seriously than the sciences as ways of understanding and making our worlds may put off such of his readers as happen not to be square.

Nelson Goodman

Department of Philosophy

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

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