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Irrealism is a philosophical position first advanced by Nelson Goodman in "Ways of Worldmaking",[1] encompassing epistemology, metaphysics and aesthetics.


Nelson Goodman's irrealism

Irrealism was initially motivated by the debate between phenomenalism and physicalism in epistemology.[2] Rather than viewing either as prior to the other, Goodman described them both as alternative "world-versions", both useful in some circumstances, but neither capable of capturing the other in an entirely satisfactory way, a point he emphasizes with examples from psychology.[3] He goes on to extend this epistemic pluralism to all areas of knowledge, from equivalent formal systems in mathematics (sometimes it is useful to think of points as primitives, sometimes it is more useful to consider lines the primitive) to alternative schools of art (for some paintings thinking in terms of representational accuracy is the most useful way of considering them, for others it is not). However, in line with his consideration of phenomenalism and physicalism, Goodman goes beyond saying merely that these are "world-versions" of the world, instead he describes worlds as "made by making such versions".[4]

Other Irrealists

Artist Tristan Tondino, has had several exhibitions entitled "Irreality" which crossover into other fields and include philosophy, mathematics, ophthalmology, science and politics. "Realism is an Irrealism. Reality is plurality - we partially create it, we must open our universes and our perceptions to all new versions that may promote the concept of human rights and expand its possibilities. [5] In a painting depicting a chair and entitled "The Hegemony of the Real", Tondino has written "That the Real must be regarded as a fiction does not detract from its hegemony".

Other Forms of Irrealism

The philosophical term may be used in more specific or arguably narrower senses, such as "colour irrealism".[6]

See also

External links


  1. ^ (Goodman 1978)
  2. ^ (Goodman 1951)
  3. ^ (Goodman 1978 : Ch. V)
  4. ^ (Goodman 1978 94)
  5. ^ Anne Émile Brisson, Plurielle Ouverture, AGIR, Amnestie Internationale, vol 25, #3, septembre 2004
  6. ^


  • Goodman, N. (1977) [1951]. The Structure of Appearance (3rd ed.). D. Reidel Publishing Co..  
  • Goodman, N. (1984) [1976]. Languages of Art (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.. ISBN 0-915144-34-4.  
  • Goodman, N. (1978). Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.. ISBN 0-915144-51-4.  
  • Goodman, N. (1983). Of Mind and Other Matters. Harvard University Press.  
  • Goodman, N.; Elgin, C.Z. (1988). Reconceptions in Philosophy & Other Arts & Sciences. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04886-9.  
  • McCormick, P.J., ed (1996). Starmaking: Realism, Anti-Realism and Irrealism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. ISBN 0585021201.  
  • Elgin, C.Z., ed (1997). The Philosophy of Nelson Goodman, Volume 1: Nominalism, Constructivism, and Relativism in the Work of Nelson Goodman. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc.. ISBN 0-8153-2609-2.  
  • Elgin, C.Z., ed (1997). The Philosophy of Nelson Goodman, Volume 4: Nelson Goodman's Theory of Symbols and Its Applications. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc.. ISBN 0-8153-2612-2.  


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