Goodman’s ‘About’: the Ryle Factor


  • Naomi Osorio-Kupferblum University of Vienna; Slovak Academy of Sciences



Nelson Goodman’s paper ‘About’ (1961) was a milestone in aboutness theory. Although it has been much discussed, an interesting fact about it has so far been completely ignored: the important debt it owes to two papers it cites by Gilbert Ryle. With Ryle’s ‘About’ (1933) it shares much more than the title – it, too, offers a three-fold account of different ways a sentence can relate to a subject matter and a separate account for fictitious objects. More importantly, although Goodman’s approach is quite different, the inspiration for the crucial element in his account, ‘differential consequence’, may well have come from a parenthetical suggestion of entailment in Ryle’s ‘About’. The second essential tool Goodman uses, viz. compound predicates which incorporate the (fictitious) object, is also the crucial element in Ryle’s ‘Imaginary Objects’ (also 1933). Goodman turns them into a predicate schema for fictitious subject matters as well as for a nominalist version of his account.


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