On the equivalence of Goodman’s and Hempel’s paradoxes

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Historically, Nelson Goodman’s paradox involving the predicates ‘grue’ and ‘bleen’ has been taken to furnish a serious blow to Carl Hempel’s theory of confirmation in particular and to purely formal theories of confirmation in general. In this paper, I argue that Goodman’s paradox is no more serious of a threat to Hempel’s theory of confirmation than is Hempel’s own paradox of the ravens. I proceed by developing a suggestion from R. D. Rosenkrantz into an argument for the conclusion that these paradoxes are, in fact, equivalent. My argument, if successful, is of both historical and philosophical interest. Goodman himself maintained that Hempel’s theory of confirmation was capable of handling the paradox of the ravens. And Hempel eventually conceded that Goodman’s paradox showed that there could be no adequate, purely syntactical theory of confirmation. The conclusion of my argument entails, by contrast, that Hempel’s theory of confirmation is incapable of handling Goodman’s paradox if and only if it is incapable of handling the paradox of the ravens. It also entails that for any adequate solution to one of these paradoxes, there is a corresponding and equally adequate solution to the other
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Archival date: 2021-02-26
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