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Revue Internationale de Philosophie

GOODMAN'S NEW RIDDLE IS PRE-HUMIAN


Author(s): Ian HACKING
Source: Revue Internationale de Philosophie, Vol. 47, No. 185 (2/3), NELSON GOODMAN
(1993), pp. 229-243
Published by: Revue Internationale de Philosophie
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23949554
Accessed: 15-09-2016 14:01 UTC
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GOODMAN'S NEW RIDDLE


IS PRE-HUMIAN

Ian HACKING

Nelson Goodman's New Riddle of Induction created an unsatisfac

tory stir (') Over 300 learned discussions of it have just been cata
logued (2). Articles and chapters will continue to proliferate. Opinion
is divided. A few think that there is a deep problem, both prcis and
profound. I am in that camp. Nearly thirty years ago I wrote that the
riddle combines "prcision of statement, generality of application, and
difficulty of solution to a degree greater than any other philosophie
problem broached in this Century." (3) I still think so (4). Many more
people believe that the riddle is a public nuisance to be got rid of by

logical devices or, perhaps, to be ignored altogether. I have much


sympathy with those who loathe or despise the difficulty. Nothing is

more conducive to making mistakes than discussing Goodman's


riddle. Worse than that, the riddle is demeaning, unworthy of a philo
sopher. We do not enjoy the gadfly.

I shall not here examine solutions or debate the importance of


Goodman's riddle. Instead I address a lesser question. Goodman
spoke of a new riddle. Is it new ? Some have wondered if it is not
Hume's problem of induction all over again. Is it not Hume tricked up

(1) Nelson Goodman, Fact, Fiction, and Forecast (1954), chapters 3 and 4. Pages rf
rencs to the 4th dition, Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1983, henceforth
FFF.

(2) Douglas Stalker, 'Bibliography' in GRUE ! The New Riddle of Induction, ed. D.
Stalker, La Salle, 111. : Open Court, 1994.

(3) Ian Hacking, Logic of Statistical Inference, Cambridge : Cambridge University


Press, 1965, p. 41.
(4) Ian Hacking, 'Entrenchment', in GRUE ! see note 2.

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230

IAN HACKING

in linguistic garb, with frills adapted from symbolic logic Hume


a 1950s costume party ?

One might address this worry directly, showing how Goodma

does raise difficulties of an entirely diffrent order from Hume. B


that would not impress the sceptics who simply do not feel the for
of Goodman's problem. Hence I shall argue the case in a more im

native way. I show that Goodman's type of difficulty could, in

logic, have arisen before Hume. Thirty years after it had arisen, Hum

could then have gone on to introduce a "new riddle" of knowled

about the future, that is, "new" with respect to an older and distin
problem set up in the days of Locke. In my imaginary world, the p
blem of induction emerges only after a version of Goodman's riddle
I do not intend this fable to show anything about history. Perhap

no one who writes in an analytic vein is less given to anachroni

than I am, or at any rate more given to noticing the fine filigree o
obscure facts about the past. I am not being anachronistic : I am

gaging in the free play of fancy. My point is not archaeology b

logic. I illustrate the diffrence between the problems of Hume and

Goodman by presenting another possible world, in which a com


panion of Locke invents Goodman's difficulty, while Hume sub
sequently goes on to discover the problem of induction. That is p

sible only because we have two entirely distinct problems, which, if


they are to be solved at all, are to be solved in entirely distinct ways
The purest nominalism

Goodman has always been cautious, saying early and late that his
proposais have been "tentative", and that the formulation of rule

"that in effect define projectibility or right inductive categorization is


a difficult and intricate task" (5). But it is not the niceties of the task

that trouble the gnral reader. The idea of entrenchment is so radica


that it is indigestible. I take Goodman to say that entrenchment is all
there is to projectibility. There may be local stories about how a fami
ly of predicates or a version of the world became entrenched. There
may be psychological or neurological discoveries that some day wil
explain how only certain sorts of predicates are possible for us to use

(5) Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking, Indianapolis : Hackett, 1978, p. 128.

Henceforth WW.

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GOODMAN'S NEW RIDDLE IS PRE-HUMIAN

231

But, says Goodman, there is no gnral way to distinguish healthy


predicates such as green and emerald, from sick ones such as "grue"
and "emeruby", other than prior practices and past usage.
The only philosophical account of entrenchment that can be given
is brief. It is about words. It is about names for kinds found to be

relevant. It is a pure nominalism. Hence it is not surprising that


Goodman's riddle can be rephrased independently of Hume's problem
of induction. It could have been proposed by an earlier gnration of
nominalists. I don't mean that someone thought of it before Hume.

I mean that it arises quite naturally from the nominalist vein of


thought. I shall show how it might have arisen in a time like that of

Locke. I choose Locke because he is a relatively accessible modem


nominalist.
Nominalism

"Nominalist" has several connotations. Goodman's idea of en

trenchment is nominalist according to his own usage ("no diffrence

without a diffrence of individuals" (6) ). Entrenchment takes fo

granted that there do not exist classes over and above the entities that
are the members of the classes. Entrenchment is also nominalist in

another sense. Goodman's solution to his riddle speaks only of com


mon names and their use. Facts about names and their history must do
the trick. There is no recourse to any characteristics of the kind or
attri-bute or quality or relation that is named.

Goodman is not a "name-ist" who holds that, as a gnral thesis


about kinds (and not just about those kinds whose members are linked

by family resemblances) there is nothing in common between the


members of a named kind, except the name itself. Name-ism occurs to

every sophomore, but I doubt that it has ever been sustained. Good
man's philosophy can be confused with name-ism because it dnis
that similarity between the items named serves to explain why they
are grouped as a kind. To deny that similarity is explanatory or foun
dational is not however to deny, as the name-ist does, that there are
similarities among things named. Obviously, says common sense,
there is often "something in common" between items over and above

(6) WW p. 95.

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232

IAN HACKING

their common name. Goodman, like Locke, would "not be thought to


deny that Nature in the Production of Things, makes several of the

alike." No memorable philosopher has denied that for long, for,


Locke continues, "there is nothing more obvious, especially in t

Races of Animais, and ail things propagated by Seed." (7)


Goodman would not restrict the point to inheritance and the b

logical kinds. He is not preoccupied, as are so many other analyt

philosophers, by natural kinds. He is interested in ail the kinds that w


may from time to time find relevant.

I say "relevant" rather than "natural" for two reasons : first, "natural
is an inapt term to cover not only biological species but such artificial

kinds as musical works, psychological experiments and types of


machinery; and second, "natural" suggests some absolute or psycho

gical priority, while the kinds in question are rather habituai or devised
for a purpose (8).

Goodman's riddle applies to ail relevant kinds, including (to

replace his generic list by a specific one) fugues, experiments on shor


term memory, and fork-lift trucks. His phrase just quoted, "artific

kind", is shorthand : he means kinds whose instances are produced b


artifice, artisans and artists. There has been discussion among ph

sophers about diffrences between natural kinds and artifactu


kinds (9). There is now a vigorous discussion among psycholingui
as to whether children have perhaps innately diffrent responses to
natural things living beings such as animais and plants as opposed
to artifacts manufactured objects such as automobiles, toy m
and combs (l0). Goodman's notion of artificial kinds is far broad
than any sense of artifactual thing, and goes along with his live

sense of what is relevant to us. And he holds that

without the Organization, the selection of relevant kinds, effected by

evolving tradition, there is no rightness or wrongness of categori

(7) Locke, Essay, III.3.13. Page rfrencs to and orthography as in John Locke, An
Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Peter H. Nidditch, (ed.), Oxford : Oxford Uni
versity Press, 1975, p. 414.

(8) MW, p. 138.


(9) T. E. Wilkerson, 'Natural Kinds', Philosophy 63 (1988), 29-42.
(10) F. C. Keil, Concept, Kinds and Cognitive Development, Cambnridge, Mass. : MIT

Press, 1989.

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GOODMAN'S NEW RIDDLE IS PRE-HUMIAN

233

zation, no validity or invalidity of inductive inference, no fair or unfair

sampling, and no uniformity or disparity among samples (")

Since Goodman is interested in ail relevant kinds, he is more

sweeping in his discussion of kinds than his predecessors, but he


writes like members of the canon of British nominalists : Ockham,

Scotus, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, the Mills and Bertrand


Russell. Perhaps some nominalists think that similarity plays some
explanatory rle in the formation of kinds, but that is certainly not
welcomed by key members of that tradition (l2). As soon as a proto
nominalist bases class-formation upon similarity, the Russellian
skewer is to hand : similarity is a universal. But if there is even one
universal, nominalism is false. At that time Russell took the argument

to be conclusive : "Seeing that nearly all the words in the dictionary


stand for universals, it is strnge that hardly anybody except students

of philosophy ever realizes that there are such entities as uni


versals." 03)

Goodman is almost as curt in his dismissal of similarity as was


Russell. His seven strictures on similarity are now part of the canon of
nominalist writing (14). We should understand his riddle as part of his
nominalism. It is not peculiarly connected with induction. That is why
I can argue that it is pre-Humian. It is a problem that could well have
occurred to an earlier gnration of nominalists peers of Locke, for

example.

(11) WW, p. 138.


(12) Mary Douglas interestingly takes James Mill to be a paragon British nominalist,
but holds that his son John Stuart was a backslider. See her essay 'Ralph Bulmer Among
the Master Dtectives : The Proximity Principle', in Man and a Half : Essays in Pacific
Anthropology in Honour of Ralph Bulmer, Andrew Paley, ed., Auckland : The Polynesian
Society, 1991, 193-198. Historical discussions about similarity were often written against a
background of issues about biological classification that have now been almost forgotten.
Thus I urge caution in reading older texts of even the most unbiological tenor (like those of
the Mills) because their original readers would have been steeped in botanical controversy.

(13) Bertrand Russll, The Problems of Philosophy, London: Macmillan, 1911,

Chapter 10.

(14) Nelson Goodman, 'Seven Strictures on Similarity' in Problems and Projects,


Indianapolis : Bobbs-Merrill, 437-438.

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234

IAN HACKING

SORTING UNDER NAMES

Goodman criticized Hume's discussion of induction as follows :

"Regularities in experience, according to him, give rise to habits of


expectation; and thus it is prdictions conforming to past regularities
that are normal or valid. But Hume overlooks the fact that some regu
larities do and some do not establish such habits...." (15). Seen in this

light, Hume did not go far enough. Goodman's riddle is therefore


"new" it comes after Hume and supplments him by drawing
attention to a lacuna in his prsentation. And so it does. But Good
man's difficulty could also have arisen before Hume, before the
question of whether the future will be like the past had been taken
sceptically. I shall now suggest an historical fantasy to that effect.
The fantasy is not to be taken seriously or analyzed at length. If we
were in earnest we would have to begin by examining the extent to

which Hume himself posed what we now call the "problem of induc
tion". One way to read him is as a man preoccupied by cause and
effect and on that reading, it is a tribute to his skill that cause and
effect dropped out of mid-twentieth Century discussions of induction.
Consider any classic brief version of the problem of induction stated

in this Century. When we read Russell on induction, causation has


evaporated. Fact, Fiction and Forecast took for granted that the sub

ject had been changed away from causation to lawlike statement


and counterfactual conditionals. The philosophical idea of cause had
become moribund. That change needed Hume. Having said that, I
shall sketch how Goodman's problems with "grue" could well have
been posed by a nominalist at the time of Locke. I'll call him Un
locke, to make clear that this is no Locke, but also because, where

possible, I shall mimic the text of the historical Locke. To do so I have


to read Locke in a coherent way. But there is more than one plausible
way to read Locke. I do not maintain that mine is definitely correct. I

use a plausible interprtation in order to indicate logical relations


between twentieth Century questions and seventeenth Century ones.
Those who read Locke differently are free to put my "Locke" in shud
der-quotes.

(15) FFF, p. 82.

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GOODMAN'S NEW RIDDLE IS PRE-HUMIAN

235

In Locke's day one did not write of kinds, let alone relevant kinds.

Locke himself wrote of sorts. The diffrence in terminology is


instructive. The very word "kind" was put into philosophy only much

later, for example in 1840 by William Whewell discussing the


"Gradation" and "Characters of Kinds" in his "Philosophy of the
Classificatory Sciences" (16). Directly afterwards John Stuart Mill
wrote about "real Kinds" with a capital (17). By 1866 John Venn
referred to natural kinds, and our modem terminology is in place (IS).

The Millian usage of "kind", as opposed to Locke's talk of sorts,


reflects a fundamental change in theories about kinds. Etymologically,
the words "kind", "kin", "gen", "gnration" and "generality" are of a

piece. Mill's "real Kinds" are part of a theory that classification is


founded upon law-like generalizations. Locke had no such theory, and
so the word "kind" did not come readily to him. He spoke of sorts.

The verb to "sort" drivs from the Latin "sort" which goes with
chance, fortune, allotment and lotteries, the very opposite of law-like
regularity. I believe that this etymological fact encapsultes the funda
mental diffrence between Locke's treatment of nominal essences,
denoted by words for sorts, and post-Millian studies of law-like kinds.
That historical thesis is not however, essential to what follows.

Locke believed that it is we who sort things into classes, and form
gnral ideas to which we annex names. There is nothing that selects
out some sortings over others except our workmanship :
we may say, the sorting of [Things] under Names, is the Workmanship
of the Understanding, taking occasion from the similitude it observes
amongst them, to make abstract gnral Ideas, and set them up in the
mind, with Names annexed to them, as Pattems, or Forms, (for in that
sense the word Form has a very proper signification,) to which, as par
ticular Things existing are found to agree, so they come to be of that
Species, have that Dnomination, or are put into that Classis (").

This is not a picture of having an idea with which one then asso
cites a name. Ideas and names are distinct but coeval. We do not first

(16) William Whewell, The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, London : Parker
(1840), Volume 1, Book viii.

(17) J.S. Mill, A System of Logic, London : Longmans, Green. (1843), Book I, Chapter
7.

(18) John Venn, The Logic of Chance, London : Macmillan, 1866, p. 246.

(19) Essay, III.iii.13; p. 415.

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236

IAN HACKING

recognize some sort of thing and then name it; we set up the Ide

the mind, with the Name annexed to it. Perhaps Locke does m
some of Goodman's seven strictures on similarity. He does say

we form abstract ideas based upon the similitudes we observe am


things, and heads the section from which I quote with the statem
that abstract ideas "are the Workmanship of the Understanding,
have their foundation in the similitude of things". I believe his u
"foundation" is not a twentieth Century one, and I do not think th
used similarity to explain our groupings into sorts of things. He
not deny that there are similitudes who would ? But he is too m
the nominalist to imagine that similarity does the needed work
theory of sorting. There are too many possible similitudes, and w
we call a similitude depends on how we sort and name things. Ev
that were not Locke's opinion, I shall attribute it to my new and
tastical character, Locke's dark companion, Unlocke.
The historical Locke distinguished simple from complex idea

divided complex ideas into ideas of modes and ideas of substa

modes in turn were split into simple and mixed. The idea of gree
simple. Locke did not think that there is any active sorting of t

into green and non-green. We just see what's green. To use


man's careful words, there is, in Locke's opinion, "some absol
psychological priority" of the idea green. The idea of a subst
such as emerald or gold, did not, in Locke's opinion, have that

absolute priority, but was not arbitrary either. Indeed, extension

speaking, Locke's "substances" coincide pretty well with J. S.


"real Kinds" and with what later writers have come to call natural

kinds. The combination of ideas that make up the idea of gold posses

sed by a person of modest ducation combines ideas such as Exten


ded, Yellow, Fusible, Malleable, and its peculiar Weightiness. That
combination, said Locke, does copy Nature, or at any rate is thought
of as so doing.
I shall restrict the following discussion to substances. I ignore what

Locke called modes, and which he explained as "complex Ideas


which however compounded, contain not in them the supposition of
subsisting by themselves, but are considered as Dependencies on, or
Affections of, Substances" (20). For present purposes, these complex

(20) Essay, II.xii.4; p. 165.

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GOODMAN'S NEW RIDDLE IS PRE-HUMIAN 237

ideas can plausibly be taken to be ideas of complex qualities. Curiou

ly Locke's own examples of what he called mixed modes th

that draw on several diffrent types of simple ideas are not natu
kinds. Many, such as the ideas of parricide and drunkenness, are w

I call human kinds (21). "Parricide" is one of Locke's favourite ex


ples of a culturally chosen predicate. It is not only a kind of perso
but also an instructive example of a "socially constructed" kind. Fo

is entirely objective : a child, typically a son, murders his own fath


There are definite criteria for truth value, even if there are some P
blems about the dfinition of murder. So it sounds like a "natural

kind" of act. Compare for example "teen-age pregnancy", a perfectly


objective condition, but one constructed to serve the purposes of post
World War II American society, and vested with meaning for those

times. Locke used his example of parricide because of the peculiar


horror, for a seventeenth Century Englishman, associated with that act.
"Parricide" is not a word or a concept of twentieth Century English,
but it once denoted an intensely moral kind. It is as "socially construc

ted" and at the same time as "objective" as could be. The best com
parison today is with the phrase and the concept "child abuse" that
evolved after 1962 (22). All such predicates dnot deeply relevant
kinds. Mixed modes and socially constructed kinds can ail be Good
manized in the way in which "grue" is built up out of "green". But
I shall discuss substances only, because the modem reader is still most
comfortable with natural kinds, and because Locke's discussion of
substances is well adapted to my purpose.
Right Substances

My label, right substances, is of course taken from Goodman's talk


of right catgories. If, as Locke thought, it is up to the human unde
standing, what similitudes to fix on in sorting under names, it seem
to follow that we can do it any which way. Any bonds between part
cular things, intelligible to human minds, could be used to constitute

species, marked by a name. For example "emeruby", or even (if w

(21) Ian Hacking, 'The Looping Effects of Human Kinds', in D. Sperber, ed., Causa

Understandings of Cognition and Culture, Oxford, Oxford University Press, forthcoming

(22) lan Hacking, 'The Making and Molding of Child Abuse', Critical Inquiry 17
(1991), 253-288.

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238

IAN HACKING

were to put aside the critical rservation about Locke's theo


simple ideas) "grue". That is not so say that we should imag

Unlocke putting forward a riddle of induction. Inductive reasoni

distinguished as such, plays a conspicuously small rle in Lo


Essay. Instead Unlocke is driven to wonder about substances
intend, wrote Locke, that names of substances

should stand for such Collections of simple Ideas, as do really exist

Things themselves, as well as for the complex Idea in other M


Minds, which in their ordinary acceptation is what they stand

therefore to define their Names right, natural History is to be enqu


into; and their properties are, with care and examination, to be fo
out (23).

Unlocke then arrives at a seventeenth Century Goodmanic problem.

Among the substances that readily occur to him are "Gold, Horse,
Iron, Man, Vitriol, Bread" all, except bread, being so many twen
tieth Century natural kinds (24). Our ideas of them are complex, and
include ideas of both primary and secondary qualities. Among those
secondary qualities are what we now call dispositional properties, and
which Locke calls Powers, such as, in the case of Gold, "the Power of
being melted, but not of spending itself in the Fire; of being dissolved

in Aqua Regia, indeed even its Yellowness is a Power in Gold, to pro


duce that Idea in us by our Eyes." (25) It is a power of Iron to be drawn

by the substance we call a Load-stone. Why then should not the


Understanding form the complex Idea of a new Substance, none other

than gron ? The name "gron" signifies the idea of mtal first exa
mined before t, and gold, or mtal not examined before t, and iron. Or
rather, our idea of gron is the idea of a Body, examined before t, and

"yellow, heavy, fusible, malleable" or not examined before t, and


silvery-white, less heavy, fusible, malleable, and attracted by the load
stone. Why, asks Unlocke, does that not "define a Name right' ?
In Goodman's own terminology, why is gron not a right category ?
Unlocke asks instead why gron is not a right substance. He could even
echo a passage of Locke just quoted to define the Names right, of

such collections of simple Ideas as do really exist in Things them

(23) Essay, III.xi.24; p. 521.


(24) Essay, II.xxiii.6; p. 298.
(25) Ibid., p. 299.

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GOODMAN'S NEW RIDDLE IS PRE-HUMIAN

239

selves, natural history is to be enquired into but natural History is


not enough !

The question of right substances is not strictly about induction,


Locke did not explicitly address Hume's problem. He came close :
there is no necessary connexion, or inconsistence, to be discovered
betwixt a complex Idea of a Body, yellow, heavy, fusible, malleable,
betwixt these, I say, and Fixedness, so that I may certainly know, that

in whatsoever Body these are found, there Fixedness is sure to be.


Here again, for assurance, I must apply my self to Exprience; as far
as that reaches, I may have certain knowledge, but no farther (26).

A substance is fixed if (to use the description Locke earlier actually


included in the idea of gold) it does not spend itself in the fire, i.e. is
not volatile. Gold, iron and gron are fixed. No gold is attracted by the
loadstone, but what of the substance gron ? How far does experience
reach ? Unlocke realizes that it does not reach far. Experience reaches
only as far as now. On every trial, gron has proven to be fixed but not

to be attracted by the loadstone. Experience, as far as it reaches,


teaches that ail gron is fixed, and none is attracted by the loadstone.
Why is gron not a substance ? When Goodmanization is used to ask
a question like that, we do not become outright Humians. We are not
led directly to Hume's questions about how we know the future will
be conformable to the past. We do not begin to challenge the idea of
cause and effect. Locke himself did not undermine the relation of

causality even though we did notice him saying, in so many words,


that there is no "necessary connexion" between the idea of gold and
that of fixedness. For Unlocke, the problem is to tell substances from
grubstances. And perhaps the answer cannot lie in anything peculiar
to substances or our experience of them. Perhaps we must resort to
custom and habits of classification. But that is not yet to pose a pro

blem of induction. For let Unlocke tell us the diffrence between sub

stances and grubstances. An Unhume is still needed to give us a pro


blem of induction (27). Is Unlocke's problem about gron the new riddle
of induction ? No, it is the new riddle about substances or even
essence. Let Locke's contribution be the theory of nominal essences;

(26) Essay, IV.xii.9, p. 645.


(27) Ian Hacking, The Emergence of Probability, Chapter 17, offers one account of
why induction had to wait.

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240

IAN HACKING

then Unlocke plays to Locke's nominal essence as Goodman pla


Hume's "custom" and "habit".

Thus Goodman's riddle, broadly understood, is not peculiarly about


induction. It is not new in the sense of being logically demanded only

after Hume had got things going. It is parallel to Hume's problems


about causation and knowledge of the future. Goodman quite rightly
says we can use "grue" to show Hume was not sufficiently rigorous in

his talk of habits. But we can equally use "grue" in a seventeenth


Century setting, and await Hume's asking how, even if we can tell the
substances from the grubstances, we can expect the future to be like
the past.
A PRIVATE REFERENCE

Unlocke serves me well in showing how to use "grue" before


Hume. He can also be put to another use. He lets us see how Kripke's

recent use of "grue" is not only historically but also logically new.
Kripke moves on terrain inaccessible to Hume or Locke. His lectures,

published as Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, posed a


sceptical problem about following a rule, which he cautiously attri
buted to Wittgenstein (2S). He briefly noticed an anaiogy between his

new kind of scepticism and Goodman's riddle of induction. "Grue",


he said, could be used to formulate a question not about induction but
about meaning :
the problem would not be Goodman's about induction "Why not
predict that grass, which has been grue in the past, will be grue in the
future ?" but Wittgenstein's about meaning : "Who is to say that in
the past I didn"t mean grue by green, so that now I should call the
sky, not the grass, green ?" (29).

Would this have been a problem for Locke, or, since the question is

counter-historical, for Unlocke ? I think not. Locke speaks of the


sortings of things under Names. Which sorting is the sorting under the

name "emerald" ? Locke can answer that. He cannot informatively


say, "a sorting into emeralds", as if that were something independent

(28) Saul A. Kripke, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, Cambridge, Mass. :
Harvard, 1982. Henceforth Kripke.

(29) Kripke, p. 58.

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GOODMAN'S NEW RIDDLE IS PRE-HUMIAN

241

of the sorting under a name (or class of synonymous names). Nor can
he point (even for his own private purposes) to the similitude and say
"that similitude !" for there is no way of pointing to it without using
names. But there is, in Locke's philosophy, something other than the
name, viz. the abstract gnral idea. It is the "pattern or form", with

which particular precious stones may agree or not agree. Thus if I


have an abstract gnral idea of an emerald, then I can, at least to
myself, identify the sorting or similitude in question, namely the
sorting into things which agree with this pattern or form. Berkeley,
perhaps, could not do that. But Locke could.

There are two more questions for a Lockian philosophy. One is


outer-directed. How do I know that my words signify the same idea

for y ou, as they do to me ? That is not, I think, Kripke's type of


question, about how I ought to call the sky. But it is one that Locke
had a brief opinion on. "Men stand not usually to examine, whether
the Idea they, and those they discourse with have in their Minds, be
the same." (30) My word "violet" signifies my idea. Does it signify the
same idea to you ? Might they be diffrent ? Locke is not interested.
He doubts that events like that ever happen, "for which Opinion, I
think, there might be many reasons offered ... the contrary supposi
tion, if it could be proved, is of little use, either for the improvement
of our knowledge, or conveniency of life, and so we need not trouble

ourselves to examine it" (31). We would now distinguish two


questions, one about what the word "violet" means, and one about
what I see when I see violet. Jonathan Bennett observes that,
The two questions, "Do you mean by violet what I do ?" and "Do
violet things sensorily affect you as they do me ?" are doubtless close
ly related, but Locke genuinely does not distinguish them, taking them
to be two versions of the single, univocal question, "Are your ideas of
violet the same as mine ?" (32)

Thus Locke paid no heed to the outer-directed question about sha


red signification. He never asked how I know that I ought to call the
sky blue, in order to be in keeping with the usage of others. Nor, I
(30) Essay, III.ii.4, p. 407.
(31) Essay, III.xxxii.14; p. 389.
(32) Jonathan Bennett, Locke, Berkeley, Hume : Central Themes, Bambridge : Cam
bridge University Press, 1971, p. 7. Cf. Ian Hacking, Why Does Language Matter to
Philosophy ? Cambrige : Cambridge University Press, 1975, 43-50.

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242

IAN HACKING

think did Kripke. What of an inner.-directed question, about my

ideas at diffrent times ? That is one way to construe Krip

question. How do I know that I am being faithful to my own for


usage ? Unlocke can answer easily, but we cannot.

Let Unlocke, the private linguist, ask himself whether the

"gold" now signifies (for him) the same idea as it signified earlie
his life. If we make him as like Locke as we can, then Unlocke w

first say that formerly he did not annex the word "gold" to the
Idea as that to which he now annexes it. That is because as he learns

more about the mtal, his idea is enlarged. His youthful idea of gold
was a matter of body, colour and weight. Later he may have enriched
it, getting a new idea of gold, involving the ideas of fusibility, ducti
lity, and solubility in Aqua Regia, not to mention a fitness to have its
colour changed by the touch of quicksilver (33). In Book II Locke him
self included fixedness in his idea of gold, but excluded it in Book IV.
Very well, but might not the word "gold" have once signified to him
not a lesser idea but a quite diffrent idea, such as the idea of gron ?
How can Unlocke tell ?

Unlocke has no problem. One can always doubt one's memory and
even allow for slips of the tongue or mind, but Unlocke knows as well
as he remembers anything, his mother's name or the look of his sitting

room, that a week ago "gold" signified his present idea of gold, and
not that of gron. There is, in Locke's philosophy, a definite fact of the

matter about that, accessible to Locke and any being capable of


reading Locke's mind. He would not be led up Kripke's path, where
there is no definite fact of the matter, for he can simply inspect his
inner idea.

Those of us who are thorough-going public linguists, or any of us

who reject the private rfrenc of common nouns, cannot make


Unlocke's reassuring move. But that would be entirely open to some

one in the ge of Locke who, we imagine, has just invented Good


man's problem. Unlocke would be as indifferent to the question about

the previous signification of "gold" as Locke was to the question


about whether you and I annex the word "violet" to the same ideas.
He would have thought the answer plain but uninstructive.

(33) Essay, II.xxxi.8-10.

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GOODMAN'S NEW RIDDLE IS PRE-HUMIAN

243

Goodman's problem about "grue" could, so far as logic goes, have


arisen in the seventeenth Century context. It fits perfectly with ideo

logy, the philosophy of Ideas. Kripke's problem about "grue" could


not have arisen because it is so readily answered within the philoso
phy of Ideas. Only by wrenching the Century out of any recognizable
context could one infect it with Kripke's worry about meaning. Good
man put "grue" to a use that is essentially pre-Humian, while Kripke
made it up to date, and thoroughly post-Humian. To say this is not to
agree with Kripke but to distinguish between Goodman's problem and
Kripke's. I discuss Kripke's new problem elsewhere (34).
University of Toronto.

(34) Ian Hacking, "On Kripke's and Goodman's Uses of 'Grue' Philosophy, July,
1993.

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